MADRID: Emaar Properties’ next generation of malls will mark a return to an old-fashioned shopping experience even as the developer pushes to expand its digital business.
Mohammed Alabbar, Emaar’s chairman, said new malls being developed by the Dubai-listed real estate company will be inspired by a sense of community — which is rapidly disappearing as more shoppers interact with devices rather than people.
“The best brands are on gorgeous streets, whether it is Sloane Street or Fifth Avenue. Maybe we should start taking the granite and the marble out of the shopping mall and put in the asphalt,” he told the World Retail Congress in Madrid.
“The old life of the square brought together by the church or mosque or synagogue — we need to put some of that back in the new stuff we’re doing.”
Alabbar revealed that three new malls in Serbia, Egypt and Dubai would all be built along this theme.
The nature of entertainment was also changing fast, he said.
“We are designing malls now with parks, music, art. Entertainment has changed. Now people are taking out the ice-skating rink and putting in a digital screen the size of the rink, because that’s where the kids are interacting, playing with whatever they have drawn on their phone and dropping it on the screen,” he said.
The property and e-commerce tycoon said the pace of progress in the digital sector meant that businesses needed to be constantly developing. “You should update your business as often as your phone is updated,” he said. “The digital e-commerce people are not normal people. They will take over the world. They are young, they are bright and they are so fast it is unbelievable. They have beds in the office.”
Emaar Properties built some of Dubai’s best-known landmarks, including the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower.
We are designing malls now with parks, music, art. Entertainment has changed.
Mohammed Alabbar, Emaar Properties chairman
Alabbar has also become a trailblazer in the region’s still fledgling e-commerce sector, with the launch of noon.com in partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
His expansion into digital shopping comes as Emaar’s traditional mall assets come under pressure from tougher trading conditions in the emirate.Last week the Dubai government revealed plans to support the sector as part of reforms to boost business confidence.
Emaar completed the second phase of the Dubai Mall in the first quarter of 2018, which added about 52,400 square meters of gross leasable area.
Dubai retail rents have declined by as much as a quarter in the past year, according to data from JLL, the real estate consultancy.