UAE & Saudi Arabia dominate regional retail landscape
Retail City 2008, the three-day industry showcase for investment and development of retail real estate for the US$ 100 billion regional retail sector, opened today (Sunday 1stJune) at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre.
Opening the event for the third successive year was Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Chairman of Dubai World. “Demand will dictate growth. Look at exhibitions such as Retail City. It shows that the retail industry remains a growing, and vibrant business in the region,” he said.
During bin Sulayem’s opening tour, it was evident that this year’s event was dominated by developers and retail professionals from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Jeddah & Riyadh. During the official opening tour, bin Sulayem visited a number of key exhibitors, including Mohammad Alhabib, who are developing 2.5 million of Gross Leasable Space (GLA) in Saudi Arabia and were displaying a number of projects across Saudi Arabia, including the Panaroma Mall in Riyadh, Alandalus in Jeddah and Jarir Plaza in Dhahran.
He also visited Schon Properties, who have 50,000 square feet of retail space under development in Dubai Lagoon and another major project at Downtown Jebel Ali, both clearly driven by major residential developments. “Retail operations are a key element of all of our projects, where we provide a comprehensive range of features and amenities affording residents easy access to everything they need to live a convenient and comfortable life," said Danial H. Schon, VP Schon Properties.
Other key regional developments on show included Amman-based Aswaq Management & Services, who is providing management services for Abu Dhabi Mall, The Walk at Jumeirah Residence and Wahat Hili Mall in Al Ain as well as other projects in Jordan and Bahrain. “It is hardly surprising that Riyadh, Jeddah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the leading the way. It’s simply a combination of a growing population and or major investment to lure religious, regional and international tourists,” said Retail City Project Manager, Naomi Koningen.
These factors have not gone unnoticed by institutional and private investors. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in real estate in the Middle East and the new economic region stretching across China, India and through to Africa, is booming according to industry experts. “Little wonder,” added Koningen. “The top 50 emerging markets spent US$ 1.7 trillion on real estate development last year, a high percentage of which was spent in the Middle East.”
Retail City brings together global retailers, investors, shopping centre developers, franchise networks, shopping centre management, architects and regional authorities to focus on all aspects of the retail development cycle.
Delivering the keynote at this year’s Retail City Conference, was Don Soderquist, Former Senior Vice-Chairman of Wal-Mart. Soderquist shared with delegates the key principles behind Wal-Mart’s growth, highlighting the need for strong leadership development and applying sound business ethics.