Lulu Group International will make its biggest ever one-off investment in the UAE with a Dh2 billion plan to develop three malls in Umm Al Quwain, Sharjah and Dubai over the next two years.
Line Investments & Property, Lulu’s mall development and management division, aims to build and operate the three malls scheduled for delivery next year, 2018 and 2019, respectively.
It currently operates six malls in Abu Dhabi, including Al Wahda Mall, Mushrif Mall and Khalidiyah Mall.
Mall of Umm Al Quwain will be a single-level strip mall of 20,000 square metres, with a seven-screen cinema due at the end of next year.
Avenues Mall Sharjah will cover 43,000 sq metres with premium restaurant and entertainment venues, and is due to open by the end of 2018.
Avenues Mall in Dubai’s Silicon Oasis is planned to extend over 82,500 sq metres and has been designed as a premium retail and leisure destination. It is expected to open by the first quarter of 2019.
The Avenues Mall in Silicon Oasis will compete with the new Cityland Mall, which was announced last week. It is located about five kilometres away and is due in 2018.
“We have done our due diligence and all our malls will be servicing the local community,” said Marcello Larizza, the general manager at Line Investments & Property – Dubai, Al Ain and Northern Emirates. He said this was Lulu’s biggest investment in the UAE, but the group was also building three malls in India and another three in Saudi Arabia.
“While there has been a softening in the global economy, we are being aggressive and bullish about the outlook because we have to look to tomorrow. If you look at Dubai’s plans for its theme parks and the Expo, this will take thousands of workers and employees that all need to live and eat. We will anchor all the malls with Lulu hypermarkets and supply many of the food and beverage outlets from our own Tablez [Lulu’s F&B arm] concepts.”
While the UAE’s retail sector has been buffeted by the strong US dollar, many community and neighbourhood malls have opened to satisfy local retailing needs. Majid Al Futtaim Group, the UAE’s leading mall operator, recently said it was turning its attention to the domestic market and neighbourhood malls.
Nakheel’s retail development pipeline features a mix of community, regional and super regional malls, with the delivery of 13 million sq feet in the next three to five years, adding to the 4 million sq ft already in operation.
“There are still a lot of gaps in Dubai and the UAE for neighbourhood malls,” said Matthew Green, the head of research for property consultants CBRE.
“I’m surprised at the size of the plans for Lulu’s Silicon Oasis mall, but it is an underserved community with regards to retail. It does mean other neighbourhood malls will come under pressure. Lulu works well as a brand with mid to low-income communities and Lulu tends to open large hypermarkets, so much of the space may well be taken by its own anchor. The road [Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road] it is on is still well below capacity, so it can take more development.”
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