Related Urban CEO Ken Himmel says he believes malls will still attract footfall in an age of online shopping
The scorching heat and cosmopolitan demographics of the UAE make it a unique market for mall operators unlike any other in the world, according to Ken Himmel, the CEO of Related Urban and Managing Partner of Gulf Related.
In New York City, Himmel – who is sometimes referred to by US media as the ‘mall magnate’ – led the development of Hudson Yards, the largest private real estate development in American history and the largest in New York since the Rockefeller Center.
Speaking to Arabian Business on the sidelines of the opening of The Galleria Al Maryah Island’s expansion, Himmel said that he believes the UAE represents a “very, very different” market to others around the world.
“The first two years I was here, I literally became a student of the market thoroughly before we got into programming and execution of the first phase of The Galleria [in 2013],” he said. “What you come to understand is that the weather conditions here are such that people have to spend a lot of time inside, in an air-conditioned environment.
That’s not the case in most places, even Florida.”
Additionally, Himmel said that “the make-up of the population is very, very different.”
“There is only a small population of native Emiratis,” he said. “Here you’re appealing to many population sectors and many demographics. In the United States, we don’t combine like that.”
Himmel also said he is unconcerned that a rise in online shopping will lead to diminished footfall for The Galleria and other malls around the world.
“That’s the reason I spend so much time focusing on entertainment and food and beverage,” he said. “You can’t enjoy that on your device.”
In Hudson Yards, he added, many online retailers have seen sales spike when they opened up a brick-and-mortar store in the area.
“The end result was that if you look at the online sales, you find that they quadruple,” he said.