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Surviving the small mall syndrome

Surviving the small mall syndrome

How can small malls compete with heavy weight retail spaces like Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates? The secret is not to. And Precious de Leon tells you why.

January 11, 2012 2:37 by

Have you ever seen some stranger in public wearing something you have in your closet? Or maybe visited a friend’s home and saw the same furniture or accessory? Let’s face it. In a country which has more than ample mall space, the tenant mix can be quite generic.

But a kind reinvention among smaller malls may just be the answer to our generic merchandise dilemma.

The UAE has had a fantastic run at creating tourist destination malls, from creating one with indoor snow slopes to attaching another to the world’s tallest tower. And with the general climate keeping us mostly indoors, most of us are almost always mall-bound when looking for a quick-hit social activity.

Even Kipp has been mall-crazy at times. We’ve covered more than our share of retail stories recently, from malls vs online to mall owners vs retailers part 1, part 2 and part 3.

And for a couple of those times, we’ve mentioned the trend of shoppers moving away from big box mall spaces into cozier, smaller malls. It’s not the first time the mention of ‘smaller malls’ has been mentioned in the retail community. About five years ago, when an economic crisis was far from our minds, British design agency Fitch & Co founder Rodney Fitch came to Dubai to deliver a rather unwelcome forecast that the shoppers’ attraction big malls won’t last forever.

And now it seems the cycle of life, death and rebirth has come to the UAE’s mall industry: the birth of big malls; the death of the existing small mall model; and now the rebirth of the small mall into a community-focused shopping centre.

In an article in The National one mall seems to have found a way to reach out to shoppers. Instead of going head to head with the big malls by having the same generic brands and services, Al Ghazal Mall has opted for a more unique tenant mix. It only has non-competing shops, as well as additional services like an eye specialist and a dentist’s clinic, as well as some non-mainstream brands.
The mall has also been more flexible with its retailers, offering below average rent prices and shorter-term contracts. Isn’t open competition nice?

For UAE residents, this could only mean wider choices for brands and services, more convenience and potentially better prices as mall space rents become more negotiable. Leave the bigger malls to the tourists and check out the smaller malls you’ve been ignoring in your neighbourhood. It just might surprise you.

While the ‘landmark’ malls may not think much of this trend as they bask in the tourist footfall, the smaller malls are definitely getting a second wind and it looks like it’s stronger than ever.

Oh, we’d love to say we told you so…Ooops, looks like we just did.

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