Salomón Cohen Bouchara

Salomón Cohen Bouchara

Director, Constructora Sambil
Fernando García Crespo

Fernando García Crespo

President, Galería 360

What level of competition do you expect in the shopping mall sector?

FERNANDO GARCÍA Crespo It is going to be fierce. If you look at the recent history of the country, we had problems in 2001 and then a big financial meltdown happened here in 2003. Then, in 2008, the second financial meltdown occurred, although that was worldwide. I call this the champagne bottle effect. We fell behind in many of these developments in retailing and also in other areas. However, we have a very agile economy that is quick to adapt and caught up. Suddenly, everyone decided to have the same idea and all these malls went up. Are there too many malls? No, not really. We have conducted studies on countries similar to ours and the number of malls to be built in Santo Domingo is not excessive over the long term. What we have been doing over the last three or four years has been done in other countries over the last 20 years. People are going to be very happy with the new offerings. They are going to have what they have never had before. Previously, they had very few options, whereas now they almost have too many options. It is going to be tough on some retailers.

SALOMÓN COHEN Bouchara Everybody is talking about competition because three shopping centers are under construction at the same time. We are from Venezuela and can bring in a lot of our experience in the retail industry. Competition is good for us, because many retailers don't want to just open one store but five or six in different locations. If we can find a place for all these stores, then we can expand even further. We bought the land and in three months we started working on construction. It was a very simple process and we received a lot of support. It is a big project—it will be the largest shopping center in the country.

How many brands or retailers have you attracted?

FGC It changes every day. Right now, I think we have about 75 to 85 signed. We are moving toward 90, which is full occupancy. A couple of them are new. Fuddruckers is new in town. Gatsby is new and is going to be a mini-anchor; it is a 1,200-sqm clothing store for young people. Casaideas, which is a home center operator from Chile, is also new. We have some new novelties for the market, but not just for the sake of novelty. We want to offer a little bit of everything.

SCB We work with many international brands, with Victoria's Secret being a good example. The person who has the rights to the brand in Venezuela wants to come to the Dominican Republic, and we can help him to do that. There are many companies from all over the world, from Spain and the UK for example, that are in a similar situation to Victoria's Secret. Their entry will be good for the whole country, as they don't want to open just one store but are looking to expand across a number of locations. Right now, we have 60% of the shopping center filled, which is quite good for a center with 365 stores. We have filled a lot of the available space, but we don't want to completely fill all the stores because we are looking to attract some US brands such as Forever 21, Gap, and Old Navy. We need to be able to offer such major brands enough space if they want to come, because they need large store sizes.

How will your mall's concept be unique?

FGC It will be a racetrack system, consisting of one floor with all the shops present on a closed loop. One of the big disadvantages we found about malls in the Dominican Republic is that they all have many floors. When you have many floors, the efforts of the retailer are compromised. For example, the second floor could be full of people, but your store is on the third floor and nobody passes by. That is why in Europe and the US most malls occupy only one floor, or at the most two with a canyon design, so that when you are walking around on one floor you can see all of the stores on the other floors.

SCB Sambil Santo Domingo Mall has a strong marketing department for the center, and every week we aim to hold an event. For example, we may have a cooking course that everybody can watch. We will hold culture days as well. We will do something everyday, including fashion shows through which the winner can win the opportunity to represent the mall for a whole year. The mall will also boast facilitates for children, including bowling and a pre-historic-themed restaurant. Entertainment is very important. It is a concept we developed in Venezuela, and we want to introduce it here, too.