Convenience Factor Fuels Demand for Community Shopping

Owen Jones
Community malls are gaining popularity in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as residents seek convenient everyday shopping.

For retailers, this is a time of complexity and change, as they navigate the evolving role of the store in an increasingly digital environment, together with the proliferation of social networks and the influence of mobile device technology.

In the Middle East, retail has remained one of the fastest-growing industries, making a major contribution to economic diversification and development. Increased populations, urbanisation, expatriate wealth, strong household consumption and a healthy tourism sector continue to provide ideal conditions for growth.

For many countries in the region, the retail mall not only provides a shopping experience, but also has a strong role as a 'go-to' destination in its own right, offering entertainment and leisure for the whole family. The UAE has led the way with facilities known for their luxury and innovative leisure provision, but a newcomer has emerged in the market – the neighbourhood or community mall.

This smaller community-based provision is a response to the large number of recently completed housing developments, catering for residents' daily grocery and necessity shopping. They offer a convenient alternative to the larger malls, avoiding a long drive and potentially lengthy walking routes around the mall itself.

For mall developers, responding to the demand for convenience shopping has meant a slightly different approach. The smaller-scale product needs more emphasis on everyday shopping and less on luxury brands. Schemes are typically anchored by large food retailers, and may include dry cleaners, photo printing shops, florists and nursery provision, as well as a range of clothes and electrical goods shops. Often open-air parking rather than multi-storey is sufficient.

Mall branding is just as important as on destination malls, with the larger developers ensuring that each of their community malls has a recognisable layout, reinforcing the brand identity. They can also take the opportunity to build close ties with the community, through corporate social responsibility programmes and loyalty schemes.

Typically developers will build 'shell and core' structures, with front of house and back of house areas finished, and individual retailers will complete their own fit-outs. Considerations include location, availability of sites, road connectivity and availability of services (water, power and district cooling, if applicable).

Faithful+Gould provides early cost advice throughout the design stage and project lifecycle. This allows us to properly assess client priorities and scope definition, determining how these can influence procurement and contracting strategies to set realistic, considered and reliable budgets within which to manage project delivery.

Mall branding is just as important as on destination malls, with the larger developers ensuring that each of their community malls has a recognisable layout, reinforcing the brand identity.

We have developed a hub of specialist expertise within our Dubai office, collaborating with our regional offices to work with clients throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Our strengths include an excellent understanding of the Middle East retail sector, which enables us to support clients from the earliest speculative stages. We are working with Majid Al Futtaim Properties (MAF) on its growing programme of community malls, with the current focus on a new-build in Dubai and an existing Sharjah community mall which is doubling in size.

We lead retail projects throughout the Middle East, Americas, Asia Pacific, UK and Europe, providing our integrated project and programme management approach on major developments, individual stores and refurbishments.

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