What is your assessment of the retail sector in Ras Al Khaimah?
SHEIKH ABDULLAH BIN MOHAMED AL QASIMI There is still room for new players in Ras Al Khaimah. We are not saturated with shopping malls; we still lack options. People have a wide range of preferences, and the current options of shopping malls do not cater to everyone. The size of this Emirate is not like the others, and we cater to our residents here in a different way. By mid-2019, the number of visitors at traditional malls will fall and the number of people coming to community destinations will rise. Developments need to mix the urban theme along with a traditional concept. In our case, I have been against calling Grove Village a shopping mall; it is a community destination. We focused on key points in building, such as ease of access. We are working on providing a great tenant mix that will cater to mothers, fathers, and their children. We hope to have the first organic supermarket in the Emirate. The beauty of the UAE in general is that it has over 200 nationalities. It is easy to adjust our concepts to whatever target we want. There is, however, a large local community and there will be a market for each category.
MOHAMMED AHMAD AL NAEEM This is a business and we do not face any problems, as everyone has their own share of the pie. There is a great mix of locals and expats to work with. The number of locals in the Emirates as a whole is not high; however, this is where the buying strength comes from, especially in the supermarket sector as most of the business comes from locals. The local population is not growing fast, though the number of people in Ras Al Khaimah is currently almost 400,000. People want more malls in Ras Al Khaimah, especially the expats, who prefer more options. Here, most business happens during the weekend or in the evenings; there are not many customers in the day. To encourage more traffic, we have to hold activities and attract more people. The strength of our mall lies in local buyers who can spend comparatively more than others. Our prices are competitive compared to international prices depending on where one comes from. The problem we face for expats is that the dollar has weakened and this has impacted our business. This does not affect locals, though tourists have been affected.
What does the future of shopping malls look like?
SABMAQ While consumption may be falling in places like Dubai, the same is not true for Ras Al Khaimah. We lack options here, and there is just as much of a demand here for entertainment as in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Ras Al Khaimah has great potential, with both our natural landscape and the vision of the government. Our studies showed us that having many commercial spaces has affected the shopping experience. This is why, in our case, we decided to remove fashion retailers from the location. We came up with the concept of providing more services and food and beverage options. People do a great deal of their shopping online now. The large malls need their fashion section; however, this is not something that applies to community destinations. Our studies have shown us that not just regionally but worldwide, fashion retail is not doing well.
MAAN The goal is to continue to build shopping malls better than stores on the street because everything can be found under one roof. People bring their families to shop, their children can play, go to the cinema or do sports, and everyone can then go for dinner. Malls will be more focused on activities rather than just shopping. In addition, security is better in a mall compared to on the streets. In 10 years, a great deal of what we see now will change, though shopping malls will still be better than anything else. Technology and e-commerce now play a major role in how shopping malls are changing. For example, cinemas will probably not be that popular as people can stream movies at home; however, people will still go to the cinema for the experience.