By Ed Attwood
Nine malls in recent years may be too much, admits Saoud Al Darwish
Qatar's rapid infrastructure growth may have led to an
over-abundance of malls in the Gulf state, the vice chairman of Darwish Holding
"There have been nine malls built in recent years, and
maybe that's a bit too much," said Saoud Abdullah Al Darwish, speaking at
the Arabian Business conference in Doha.
Darwish Holding itself soft-launched the 128,000 sq m
Lagoona Mall in the Qatari capital a week ago, which the vice-chairman said had
already witnessed considerable interest.
"Our average daily figures for the shops in Lagoona
Mall shows that they are already matching stores that we opened 10-15 years
ago," Al Darwish added.
A key feature of Lagoona, in which the company has invested
$348m, is Fifty One East, a 13,000 sq m branded department store.
"In terms of the conversion rate at the store - or the
number of visitors who actually buy a product - retailers will tell you that
the best-case success ratio is, say, 15-20 percent," said the vice
chairman. "But we opened last week, and our conversion rate is hitting the
high 30s, which is nothing short of astonishing.”
However, the launch of Lagoona adds yet another mall to
Doha's already over-crowded shopping sector. Alongside the giant City Centre
development in West Bay, recent additions to the local retail scene include the
Villagio luxury mall and The Gate.
Earlier this year, real estate consultancy Jones Lang
LaSalle warned that Gulf malls could become obsolete unless they revamped their
offerings to provide more entertainment options.
Older malls that lack pull factors such as entertainment and
F&B options will ultimately suffer and some may be converted to non-retail
uses, analysts wrote.
This is an international problem as malls change from an overall shopping experience to a total life style experience.
The latter requires even more than Entertainment or F&B if the clients are to experience a total all encompassing event on visiting.