Dubai-based regional retail conglomerate Majid Al Futtaim today unveiled a Dh1 billion expansion of its flagship Mall of the Emirates in Dubai.
The new ‘vertical’ expansion adds 36,000 sqm of space to the existing structure, and Majid Al Futtaim’s officials said they were proud of the fact that the ‘Evolution’ was undertaken without disrupting the operations of existing retail tenants.
The new area – equivalent to about nine acres or eight professional football fields – offers space for a total of 40 retail outlets including more than 20 fashion retailers, some of which are entering the region for the first time, and 12 dining outlets all on the new third floor of the mall.
“The delivery of Mall of the Emirates’ Evolution 2015 is the latest milestone in Majid Al Futtaim’s culture and legacy of innovation in response to changing customer needs,” said a beaming Michael Cesarz, CEO of Shopping Malls at Majid Al Futtaim Properties.
“Our focus on premium quality of design, on the retail mix of luxury and dynamic new brands for our customers, on unique dining and entertainment experiences, and on convenience and accessibility, demonstrate Mall of the Emirates’ enduring status as the destination of choice for both residents and tourists,” he said.
“To achieve Majid Al Futtaim’s stated objective to double the size of our business within the next five years, we will continue to evolve and enhance existing flagship destinations such as Mall of the Emirates while developing new retail concepts of different sizes and formats that fit the needs of the communities we serve throughout the region. We will continue to innovate in our locations, retail mix, design, and integration with community needs to deliver the optimal customer experience and create great moments for everyone, everyday,” he added.
The completion of Evolution 2015 marks the latest milestone in Mall of the Emirate’s 10-year anniversary.
A triumph of engineering and design
According to the mall operator, the extension that has created an entirely new floor atop the retail destination is an architectural feat especially since it enabled Mall of the Emirates to remain fully operational throughout redevelopment.
Architects were tasked with creating a one-metre-thick deck on top of the existing structure, eliminating any load on the existing roof above anchor retailer Carrefour.
As a 3,000-strong team worked continuously for 18 months, the mall operated as normal throughout the redevelopment, logging 15 million man hours to construct two new domes, three major glass barrel roof lights, nine new bridges, and three escalators to seamlessly connect the extension to the existing mall.
Fashion & food first
Majid Al Futtaim has introduced new fashion and dining brands as part of the new offering, including premium British fashion house, AllSaints; yoga-inspired athletic apparel brand, lululemon athletica; and later this year, leading US specialty retailer, Abercrombie & Fitch.
Other brands debuting in the region include Seafolly and Omnia Baharat, and will be joined with new flagship stores from Majid Al Futtaim’s existing fashion brands, Juicy Couture and Jane Norman.
It’s showtime with Vox
Officials highlighted that the new Vox Cinemas is the entertainment centrepiece of Evolution 2015. Vox today unveiled a 100,000 sqft entertainment destination with 24 screens within the mall’s new extension, making it the largest complex in the Middle East.
The new offerings feature advanced technologies such as: the first and only Imax with Laser screen in the Middle East; the largest Vox 4DX auditorium; the world’s first of its kind luxury cinema experience called Theatre by Rhodes, combining fine food and film in a collaboration with Michelin Star Chef, Gary Rhodes; and two Vox Kids, colourful cinemas with an adjoining fun-filled party room for birthday parties.
New restaurant venues flanking the Vox Cinemas entry include Dean & Deluca, 800 Degrees, Eat Greek Kouzina, and Din Tai Fung.
Indulgence meets convenience
The mall has also introduced a new luxurious valet parking experience, located adjacent to the Fashion Dome and Central Galleria, where the well-heeled can enjoy a complimentary cup of coffee, water or fizzy drinks or two as they wait for their cars to be brought back by uniformed drivers.
There’s also good news for those not looking at the valet parking option. The extension means that 1,300 new shaded parking spaces with a dedicated entrance are now open, taking the total available mall parking to a massive 7,900 cars.
In addition, a new taxi arrival facility next to Ski Dubai complements the mall’s direct link to Dubai Metro, delivering opportunity for growth in Mall of the Emirates’ footfall.
Rising domestic retail spend offsets Dubai tourist drop
Greater spending by local residents has offset the impact of falling tourist numbers on Dubai's retail sector, said Michael Cesarz, chief executive of Majid Al Futtaim's shopping malls division.
Dubai's lavish malls boast attractions including an indoor ski slope, skydiving wind tunnel and one of the world's largest aquarium tanks. These have helped draw visitors to the emirate, while tourist spending in turn supports the retail sector.
"Dubai has seen a softening of tourist numbers," Cesarz told Reuters at the opening of a Dh1 billion expansion of the company's Mall of the Emirates.
"At Mall of the Emirates, we've compensated for the drop in tourists with more local customers coming here. We don't see that much loss in footfall," said Cesarz. "Our assets are orientated to tourists, but we're not dependent on them. We see increasing sales."
He declined to give figures for tourists, sales or footfall.
Dubai's wholesale, retail and repair services sector is the emirate's largest, generating revenue of Dh23.91 billion in the first quarter of 2015. This was up 3 per cent on the prior-year period to provide 27 per cent of Dubai's gross domestic product and be the largest contributor to the economy.
Majid Al Futtaim owns about 1 million square metres of retail space across the Middle East, of which more than 60 per cent is in the United Arab Emirates. It aims to double this amount by 2020 and is building two malls in Egypt, two in Oman and is also seeking to expand into Saudi Arabia, Cesarz said.
He ruled out his division going public, saying plans were in place to fund its expansion but declined to provide further details.