With leasable space set to double in just three years, competition for shoppers in Qatar’s retail sector is bound to tighten, necessitating new ways of drawing in customers. Malls are therefore building tailored entertainment and luxury components into their designs, from cinemas to theme parks to canals, in a bid to lure the foot traffic that drives sales.
“The leisure and entertainment provisions within retail malls are important here because of the climate,” Johnny Archer, associate director of consulting and research at the Qatar branch of global real estate firm DTZ, told OBG. “For five months out of the year, outdoor leisure activity is restricted due to the temperature, which provides retail malls with an opportunity to become entertainment and leisure destinations, rather than just shopping centres.”
According to DTZ, the total gross leasable area in Qatar’s retail sector stood at 643,000 sq metres as of mid-2016, split between 14 major malls. On current plans, this is set to grow to 1.3m sq metres by 2019 through the construction of 11 new outlets and projects. These investments have ramped up substantially in recent years as incomes have risen, the population has expanded, and the push to diversify the economy has intensified.
Among the planned malls, attractions will vary. Doha Festival City, a 433,000-sq-metre development slated to open in February 2017, has carved out 38,000 sq metres for an entertainment zone, including an 18-screen “4D” cinema, flight simulator, play area, snow park and an Angry Birds theme park. There is also a 200-seat virtual gaming centre and a family entertainment park about outer space. As these components target different age groups, from toddlers to adults, the hope is to appeal to entire families. “Family life is central to Qatari culture,” said Archer. “Malls need to offer ways of attracting families, which will include keeping children entertained as well as offering lifestyle options for adults.”
The 500,000-sq-metres Mall of Qatar is opening in October 2016, has similarly reserved 18,000 sq metres for family entertainment. Its children’s centre, KidzMondo, will present a mock-up miniature town (8000 sq metres) allowing youngsters to roleplay in 70 different jobs such as astronaut, doctor or firefighter, earning “salaries” which they can use to shop on premises. At a price tag of $25m, the mall’s designers hope this feature, being carried out by Lebanon’s Kidz Holding, will help it reach some 300,000 visitors in its first year of operation. Other attractions are geared toward adults: its Oasis performing arts venue will centre on a 360-degree revolving stage set within a large water fountain. Concerts, sports games and other events are to take place year-round, alongside a 19-screen 3D laser projection theatre.
A third large development to open in 2016, the souq-style Tawar Mall, joined this group of malls in January with the announcement it had contracted Qatar’s Al Siddiqi Holding to design a 4300-sq-metre “edutainment zone” called Kaboom. This mall will contain a gaming area, cinema and theme park rides, alongside a chocolate factory and karaoke venue, as well as a children’s science lab and instruction zone.
Two further upcoming malls take cues from Europe. Place Vendôme, a 230,000-sq-metre complex set to open in late 2017, seeks to emulate the high-end shopping street in Paris, Rue de la Paix, focusing on luxury, fashion and lifestyle experiences for adult shoppers, with an amphitheatre at its centre and a canal running through it directly to the sea, flanked by restaurants overlooking the water.
Alhazm, a 120,000-sq-metre ultra-luxury complex opening by the end of 2016, replicates an Italian piazza with fresh markets, terraces and fine dining. It has deliberately eschewed entertainment draws in favour of exclusive brands and cuisine. “We are targeting Qataris and affluent expatriates,” Mohammed Abdul Kareem Al Emadi, CEO of Alhazam, told OBG.