IT’S A MALL WORLD

Oman 2018 | CONSTRUCTION | FOCUS: SHOPPING MALLS

Shopping malls have become central to Oman's efforts to boost retail activity, and a recent spate of major projects has put the Sultanate on the map for high-end shopping.

As Oman moves to establish alternate sources of economic activity, its retail sector has taken on new significance. The GCC's retail sector has become increasingly crowded in recent years, with Qatar, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia all opening high-end retail centers, and the Sultanate is ready to get in on the action with its own world-class projects. The Omani government is working in collaboration with foreign investors to make a series of shopping malls the centerpieces of Muscat and Duqm urban areas, creating new labor and tourism opportunities and providing a needed source of economic diversification.

Foreign investors have been drawn to the sector by its untapped potential; as of 2016, Oman had the lowest retail gross leasable area (GLA) per capita within the GCC. In February 2016, Panorama Mall opened in Muscat. Home to 116 shops, the project was overseen by Omani developer Allied Business Group and includes a five-star hotel, 5,500sqm of office space, and a residential facility with 285 apartments to go along with its more than 21,000sqm of leasable retail area. Allied Business Group has explained that its target demographic is mid- and upper-class Omanis. The mall created more than 1,300 jobs upon completion and is expected to see more than 12,000 daily visitors once fully leased and operational.

The Oman Avenues Mall, which opened in May 2015, is the Sultanate's largest shopping mall, with more than 72,000sqm of retail space. Here, Oman drew upon the region's experience with high-end retail by looking to Abu Dhabi-based Lulu Hypermarket, a retail management firm with more than two decades of experience across the GCC. Oman Avenues has become the Sultanate's flagship location for high-end brands, and new marketing initiatives are underway to turn it into a tourist destination on par with comparable developments in the rest of the GCC.
And even larger projects are underway. Dubai retail group Majid Al Futtaim expects to invest more than USD1.3 billion in Omani retail development by 2021; the group's plans include the USD715-million, 137,000-sqm Mall of Oman, which will become the Sultanate's largest retail and entertainment center when completed in 2020. Other Majid Al Futtaim projects include the 400,000-sqm Sohar City Centre and the 16,000-sqm My City Centre Sur, which are expected to be completed in 2018 and late 2017, respectively.