UAE malls prepare for local holiday indulgence

Dubai malls are cashing in on an influx of Saudi and Iranian holiday makers.

Nakheel’s Ibn Battuta Mall has already had more than a 10 per cent increase in visitors over the past 10 days and is hosting live shows at the shopping centre to keep the crowds entertained.

The Iranian New Year, Nowruz, was March 21, while the Saudi Arabian spring break began on March 24. In a further boost for the sector, many UAE schools broke up yesterday.

“Ibn Battuta Mall has welcomed about 200,000 people per weekend since the Saudi Arabian spring break began earlier this month, compared to an average 180,000,” said Omar Khoory, the director of Nakheel Retail. “This weekend is likely to be even busier, with the start of the UAE spring break adding to the crowds. Nakheel is laying on a range of live entertainment this weekend and next, including daily live performances. Live roaming acts will also weave their way through the 1.3 kilometre long mall.”

Retail sales are still growing strong in the UAE, according to Euromonitor figures. Retail sales, excluding grocery stores, amounted to just below US$33 billion in last year. Emaar, the owner of The Dubai Mall and Marina Mall, said its shopping malls, retail and hospitality businesses contributed more than 54 per cent of its total revenue, bringing in Dh5.36bn in the fourth quarter of last year, a 12 per cent increase on 2013.

“It’s hugely positive for the UAE because these neighbours enjoy what the UAE has to offer,” said Matt Jay, a retail and commercial agent at the property consultants CBRE. “Our malls have always been good at celebrating Eid and Christmas, but the developers are now far more conscious of regional holiday dates and putting on events and entertainment that supports those breaks. The developers have been marketing their offers and destination malls as a place of family fun, targeting the countries directly, and more traffic usually means more trade.”

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