Gulf Malls Rein In Expansion As Retailers Reel From Coronavirus


Gulf Malls Rein In Expansion As Retailers Reel From Coronavirus

Mall operators in the Gulf region are delaying new mega-projects as the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices upend a retail industry built around huge centres catering to tourists and wealthy locals.

Majid Al Futtaim (MAF), the Middle East’s biggest mall operator, said it delayed the launch of its fifth and largest centre in Oman, the 145,000 square-metre (1.5 million sq-ft) Mall of Oman, because retailers did not have the cash at hand to fit out stores.

In Dubai, Emaar Malls halted construction on two projects, according to two sources familiar with the plans. They are a mall near the site of the Expo 2020 world fair, which has been delayed by a year to next October, and a 185,000 square-metre (2 million sq-ft) mall in the Dubai Hills residential area.

Emaar Malls, owner and operator of the world’s largest shopping centre, Dubai Mall, did not respond to a request for comment.

“In malls under construction, timelines are being revisited. This is a fluid situation,” MAF’s Chief Executive Alain Bejjani said. “We will see how it goes and adapt. It will be the case for the coming 12 months.”

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Luxury malls, featuring international brands and entertainment such as dancing fountains and indoor ski slopes, have been the cornerstone of the oil-producing region’s retail industry, especially during the blistering summer months.

A growing population and steady stream of tourists has seen more projects planned in recent years even as competition intensified and footfall levelled off.

Last year, Alpen Capital forecast the Gulf retail sector to grow from $253bn in 2018 to $308bn in 2023.

Gulf Malls Rein In Expansion As Retailers Reel From Coronavirus


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