Abu Dhabi’s community mall packs a big punch
It is just the start of the year and Riva Abou Ali has her calendar full for the rest of the year.
For the mall manager of Fotouh Al Khair Mall in Abu Dhabi, each month will be busy with exhibitions from local entrepreneurs, bazaars from community groups, or fund-raisers. She has already renewed the rental contracts for all the shops at the mall despite a 5 per cent rent rise.
And she has a list of shops waiting to open doors at the mall.
Community malls do not garner the same attention as when glitzy megamalls open but, over the past few years, Fotouh Al Khair Mall has refashioned itself as a retail space that encourages Emirati entrepreneurs to set up shop. That includes those without experience of running a business and young graduates. There are about 45 shops and 20 kiosks at the mall.
Community malls in the capital cover a total of about 123,545 square metres, including those as small as 10,000 to 30,000 square metres such as Al Seef Village Mall and Sun and Sky Boutik mall, according to the property consultancy JLL. The total retail market in Abu Dhabi covered 2.62 million square metres at the end of last year. Fotouh Al Khair’s is set out over 14,700 square metres.
Despite the ability of bigger and newer malls to draw large numbers of people due to their variety of food, entertainment and shopping options, community malls are expected to flourish.
They are not competing with but are complementary to large malls, according to Andrew Williamson, the head of retail for JLL Mena.
“As community malls are more focused on fulfilling basic daily needs of the community, they are able to establish a steady demand,” he says. “As consumers demand more proximity, mixed use developments in the UAE are incorporating community retail into their projects to serve these needs.”
Opened 16 years ago, Fotouh Al Khair Mall is among the first community malls in the city. Currently, the Abu Dhabi Municipality under the build-operate-transfer framework, is requesting investors to construct, invest and run community and neighbourhood centres across Abu Dhabi to serve residential communities.
“Newer community malls are integrating entertainment and high-quality food and beverage to suit the local catchment,” according to Mr Williamson.
Last year, around 53,000 square metres of retail space came to the Abu Dhabi market and most of it was non-mall space within mixed use developments, a JLL report says.