Smaller retail developments rather than mega-malls are a way forward for retail across the Middle East according to a panel discussion hosted by Middle East Architect.
Dubai-based urban design experts Patrick Bean, design director at Lacasa, Islam Mashtooly, senior architect at Perkins + Will, Tobias Honey, senior design manager at VE Experts and Joe Tabet, founder of JT+ Partners all took part in the debate.
They were asked: “Does everything need to be biggest and best? Some smaller malls out in the suburbs with a dozen or 20 stores seem to be successful.”
These outlets tend to not be the high end stores traditionally associated with Dubai. Instead they include food stores, clothing outlets, sports goods retailers, a bookshop, coffee shop and a couple of restaurants, the panel heard.
Bean said: “That is exactly the market developers are trying to hit, a sort of town centre. You know when you go to such a mall there will be a place to park and it’s not miles away and you have to struggle in the heat. Lastly it’s not going to take you two hours to get out.”
Another factor which can attract people to smaller malls is similar outlets.
“You can have clustering of similar outlets but the stores must be complementary,” said Honey. “When you have direct competitors next to each other that doesn’t really work.”
Mashtooly said retail in the region has a couple of contrasting outlooks.
He said: “Emaar want to build the tallest tower in the world with the most impressive fountains outside. Other developers may want to build something for everyday use. These are two different scenarios. Greater emphasis needs to be placed on traffic and infrastructure.
Tabet spoke about a recent visit to Paris during which he walked around for four hours, even though it was raining.
“Who goes out in Dubai when it rains?” he asked. “No-one. But in France the infrastructure allows you to do it. It’s a cultural thing as well, people adapt. I am Lebanese, but when I worked in Paris I was French.”