Tim Jones is the chief operations officer of the Dubai shopping malls Arabian Center in Al Mizhar and Lamcy Plaza in Bur Dubai. The malls are run by Lals Group, who Mr Jones has worked for since 2002. Before moving to the UAE, the 54-year-old, from the UK, spent 14 years as general manager for the retail group Jawad Business Group in Bahrain.
I have a 45-minute morning run around the lake at the back of our house in the Meadows in Dubai. It gives me time to gather my thoughts and enjoy the sunrise. I then eat muesli, fruit and toast for breakfast with my wife Rachel and youngest daughter, aged 16. My other daughter is 20 and studying geology at university in Leicester.
During term time, I run the gauntlet of Sheikh Zayed Road with my daughter for the 25-minute school run. If we’re not listening to Virgin Radio, we’re talking about her GCSE exams. I usually arrive at my office at Arabian Center before anybody else, at just after 8am. I have offices in Lamcy Plaza too but 75 per cent of the time I’m at Arabian Center. I check emails and organise priorities for the day. Lamcy Plaza was about three years old when I joined and I set up Arabian Center in 2009.
Before the mall opens at 10am, I wander around meeting the security, housekeeping and customer services teams. We have about 110 staff in Arabian Center and 90 in Lamcy Plaza, and they all know my face and usually say hello. A lot of the noisy work our engineering department does happens at night, so I make sure it’s complete. Flagship stores in Arabian Center are H&M, New Look, Next, Lulu and Homes R Us. I look at the tenant’s retail shop windows to ensure standards of retail layouts and merchandising follow guidelines – that they haven’t got the radio or a CD on too loudly, all the lights are on and the AC is sufficient.
I sit down with the senior management team. Shopping malls don’t stay the same, we’re always looking to revamp. We know the dates that tenancy agreements are coming up for renewal and we have a waiting list of brands that want to come in, and existing tenants who want to open other shops in their portfolio. We also ask customers which new stores they’d like to see, and look at any gaps in the market. If it’s a large shop, we’ve got to look at companies capable of filling that bigger space. We’d rather go with tried and tested performers because they tend to be more on the ball, opening much quicker. As well as the “mom and pop” type operations we have smaller shops – in Arabian Center those are the Arabic perfume and abaya shops.
I have an open-door policy with departmental managers at this time, enabling staff to talk to me directly.
Lunch is usually a sandwich at my desk, but sometimes I meet mall colleagues elsewhere to find out what’s happening in the wider retail world. As large housing development areas keep growing, there are more opportunities for neighbourhood malls – malls between 100,000 square feet and 300,000 sq ft, serving certain demographics coming out to do weekday shopping. We ran Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre in Abu Dhabi for 10 years, and we’re now looking at other opportunities in Abu Dhabi. Competition in the market for mega-malls is getting too strong so we’re not looking to compete with the big boys.
I have meetings with people we partner with – a PR agency or tenants with plans for a promotion. Summers used to be slow but with Dubai Summer Surprises, the market doesn’t drop anywhere near like it used to. The government and various agencies spend a lot of money on prizes for competitions in malls. We have to participate but for that you get a lot of backing and advertising.
Some days I’ll go to Lamcy Plaza for meetings. There are 200 stores in Arabian Center and 115 in Lamcy Plaza, including restaurants. They’re both neighbourhood malls, but Lamcy Plaza tends to cater to customers from the Indian subcontinent, whereas Arabian Center probably has the largest percentage of Emiratis of any mall in Dubai.
I’m told being married to someone who works in a shopping mall has its perks – it’s easy for me to pick up bits and pieces for Rachel before coming home. Normally I eat with my wife and daughter at the table, but if there’s sport on TV, it’s dinner on a tray and feet up on the sofa, battling for space with the cats.
I read the Kindle and drop off to sleep.
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