Interview: Khaled Sam Hosn
How much of a concern is oversupply in the retail sector, and who benefits in this situation?
KHALED SAM HOSN: Increased supply will always mean more competition for retailers, but this is good news for customers, who stand to benefit from greater choice and more competitive prices. In the case of Mall of Qatar, our greatest focus is on the consumer experience and delivering the best entertainment, food and shopping destination.
Every mall must work hard to attract and retain shoppers, but the overall picture across the country is positive, with retail sales up 10% in 2019. Qatar is becoming a regional hub for shopping, so it is easy to understand why brands want to be here, especially with the 2022 FIFA World Cup approaching.
Despite the increase in supply, the majority of premier retail destinations in Qatar continue to enjoy high levels of occupancy and attract significant footfall. The country’s long-term development plan, Qatar National Vision 2030, has four main pillars, including economic development and sustainability. The retail sector will play a vital role in accomplishing these goals over the medium to long term. It is a comprehensive strategy with the future in mind.
What impacts have infrastructure projects like the Doha Metro had on the retail environment?
HOSN: One of the most important components of retail business development is modern and reliable infrastructure. It is the infrastructure that attracts international investors and brands, and that expands the potential of local entrepreneurs as well.
Qatar has remained steadfast in its plans to develop a solid and sustainable infrastructure that can support all fields of business. This includes new advancements at Hamad Port, new highways, greater road connectivity and metro lines that together have made transportation much easier. Additionally, Qatar possesses an advanced telecommunications infrastructure; a stable economy with a confident outlook; meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions facilities; and sports facilities that host internationally known events. This infrastructure has a direct impact on retail business, which is a major contributor to Qatar’s economy.
Recently we have seen a greater diversity of retail offerings across Qatar, and they are not concentrated in one area, which gives residents and visitors more options. Mall of Qatar, for example, has benefitted from modern infrastructure and has attracted a greater number of visitors thanks to the new green metro line that connects the mall to the rest of Doha. We have invested in making the commuter trip seamless with an air-conditioned connection to the mall. With the completion of new highways connecting the area, it is becoming increasingly easy to access the mall, which is having a positive impact.
To what extent have efforts to boost tourism inflows from previously untapped markets helped bolster Qatar’s retail activities?
HOSN: The retail sector does not rely on one class of people; there is always an offering for everyone. Today there are more and more visitors coming to Doha thanks to new visa regulations allowing over 80 nationalities to visit Qatar, opening the country to more global markets. The Qatar National Tourism Council is working to enhance the country’s tourism and hospitality offering, and to diversify the economy away from oil and gas. It is focusing on promoting tourism to Qatar well beyond 2022.
Through its efforts and forward thinking, we are seeing more visitors spending in the market. Qatar Airways continues to expand its network and provide greater connectivity options, which supports growth in sectors such as retail. All these factors together play an integral role in creating a stable and promising retail sector in the medium to long term.
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