It’s whole new mall game

DUBAI — Looking to change your wardrobe? Stepping out for a bite? A business meet to organise over lunch? Does your refrigerator need a refill?

By Lily B. Libo-on

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Published: Sun 18 Apr 2010, 11:39 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 10:53 AM

How about catching that elusive gym session? How about skiing down the slope? Or that much-needed facial at a hep salon? Feeling like going gaming with friends? Or want to catch that newly-released movie... — don’t we all face these questions almost daily. Amazingly, for a Dubai resident, the answer to all of these questions includes one word: the Mall.

No downturn here

And, this maybe a major reason why the global economic downturn has not managed to put a dent in the business of malls here. Visitors and residents keep dropping in for reasons as important as the availability of best brands in the market — not to mention the best deals, top-notch entertainment and as subtle as having all kinds of products under the same roof and great customer service — sheer convenience says it all.

Italian shopper Luco Ammobalhno Demayo told Khaleej Times that in Italy, shops offering different products are found along the streets. “In Dubai, you can find these in the malls.” He said that this is a plus point for shoppers, considering the hot climate during summers.

Shahram Shamsaee, Vice-President, Asset Management of Majid Al Futtaim, tells us why the sun is shining on malls. “Malls are certainly a cultural phenomenon in Dubai, but they are also practical in buying almost anything you need from everyday necessities to luxury products,” he said.

Malls have not registered a drop in footfalls so far. Rana Jaser, PR & Marketing Manager of Mercato and Town Center, said that economic downturn has not affected Dubai in a big way. She said that when the financial crisis first hit in early 2009, the mood was sombre. “That was until Dubai Summer Surprises 2009. Once it began, the footfall and sales shot up. Surprisingly, we were able to spot many visitors from other GCC countries in our malls as Dubai, more than estimated as that category used to spend their summer holidays in Europe, for example.”

Connecting with people

The Mall culture is very much alive at Al Ghurair City — the oldest mall in the emirate. Being the pioneer shopping centre in Dubai there is a great deal of emotional-connect with long-term Dubai residents, Mukta Sabharwal, Manager PR & Events, told Khaleej Times. She says the mall’s location too plays a significant role in attracting customers.

Long-time Deira residents Bless Secuia, who has been in Dubai 10 years, Thelma Legazpi — 19 years in Dubai, and Lisa Toldoya — 14 years in the emirate, said they have witnessed the dramatic rise of malls here.

Recounting the good old days, Bless said that Dubai residents earlier had no option other than Al Ghurair City, it being the first mall in Dubai, and hence are in someway emotionally attached to it.

Thelma said that Al Ghurair City, when it was the emirate’s only mall, used to get very crowded during Eid and Ramadan and other holidays even though it had no cinema and entertainment feature then.

Liza talked about the hefty discounts of the yesteryears. Now, the 40 to 70 per cent discounts of the shops in the malls still out of reach for an average worker. “Earlier, discount deals meant Dh5 or Dh3 a piece.”

Playhouse Dubai

Shoppers globally, and especially those from the region find that there’s no haven like Dubai for some serious shopping.

Iranis Beunaz Hossayoni and wife Behjat, with his mother Pejman, travel to Dubai regularly from Teheran, calling Dubai a ‘playhouse’ — a good shopping hub where they can find everything they need. “Dubai is a magical city. In my country, a limited choice of products is available. But, what we cannot buy there, we find it here, including the best facilities in the Middle East,” Buenaz told Khaleej Times.

Yas, a 15-year-old Iranian girl, told Khaleej Times that she and her family come to Dubai regularly three to four times a year to shop, go for entertainment and meet friends and family members. “When we come to shop, we stay in Dubai for three weeks.”

A Palestinian-Jordanian lady, Randa Alghussain, shopping around Dubai malls with her daughter Jenna, who is a year and a half old, said she comes here for entertainment, shopping deals and variety of food items.

Kenyan Brothers Charlie and Moffat Kaman talked of the brands available in Dubai malls. “Name it and these malls have it. Also, you don’t have to go around under the hot weather.” Charlie is enamoured by the excellent cuisine of almost all nationalities available in eateries and restaurants in the malls.

Dubai malls attract even residents and expatriates living in other emirates as a “meeting point for shoppers”. Palestinian expatriates, Sarah Al Assadi, 18, and Narmin Amouna, 18, together with their Lebanese friend, Hanin Gharbi, 18, drive to Dubai from Abu Dhabi on weekends to shop. “We go mall-hopping and normally spend between Dh500 and Dh1,000 on every shopping trip in Dubai,” Sarah said.

Qayyum Aziz and Tejas Doshi, Indians, come not only for the joy of shopping but also to get a bite of the cultural meeting place the malls have become. “We shop for the international brands and quality products. But, we also come to observe people from different cultures shopping here.”

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