The retail sector in Dubai has withstood the shock of the coronavirus pandemic, with occupancy levels remaining resilient throughout the crisis last year, according to Emaar Malls, the retail arm of UAE’s top developer Emaar Properties.

Retail businesses felt the immediate impact of the outbreak last year, as footfalls across shopping centres plunged during one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. Non-essential shops were forced to shut down and retailers saw their sales fall to record lows.

Shopping mall operators, as well as other landlords, were forced to offer rental relief to help struggling establishments. In the case of Emaar, the rental relief, which has been extended until March 31 this year, has amounted to 1 billion dirhams.

“Occupancy levels across Emaar Malls’ assets remained resilient during 2020,” the company said Wednesday.

Stronger position

Emaar Properties’ retail business reported full-year revenue of 3.508 billion dirhams ($955 million) and net profit of 704 million for 2020.

“Emaar Malls has emerged from 2020 in a much stronger position, having faced some of the most challenging business conditions in a generation,” said Mohamed Alabbar, founder of Emaar Properties and Emaar Malls.

“Our wonderful achievements in the past, strengthened by our more recent strategic investments in a digital future, have meant that we were able to quickly adapt and introduce changes that will help us grow and succeed long after the pandemic passes,” he added.

Footfall traffic in malls gradually increased following the lifting of mobility restrictions last year. The sector was also bolstered by improved international visitor arrivals towards the end of 2020.

Trend to continue

“We continue to see guests returning to our malls in greater numbers, and we expect this positive trend to continue in the year ahead, strengthened by the support we receive from our leaders in Dubai and the UAE, and their world-leading rollout of vaccines in the country,” said Alabbar.

Emaar Malls’ portfolio includes The Dubai Mall, Dubai Marina Mall, Souk Al Bahar and Gold & Diamond Park, among others.

Emaar Malls recently opened new assets, including the Dubai South Village, a community mall that caters mainly to residents in the neighbourhood and Downtown Kitchens, which provides a food court-like setting for artisanal businesses that offer new and traditional cuisines.

(Reporting by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Seban Scaria) 

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