Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) Properties, owner and operator of region's major shopping malls such as City Centre, Mall of the Emirates and the Carrefour franchise, has ruled out any slowdown in the retail sector as its portfolio continues to grow and it also enjoys close to 100 per cent occupancy, a senior official said on Sunday.
"I don't think the retail market is slow. Demand is there and the market is in healthy position. Things are moving in the right direction and the greatest proof of that is the investment of Dh370 million we made in Deira City Centre and in Al Zahia City Centre," said Fuad Mansoor Sharaf, managing director of MAF Properties.
Sharaf was speaking to announce the expansion of Ajman City Centre as part of an ongoing Dh643 million enhancement project. The Ajman mall doubled its leasable area to 55,000 sqm and increased the number of outlets to 130 - including restaurants.
"Behaviour and mindset have changed. Landlords have to be proactive to get the right tenant mix into the malls. Nothing became slow; it depends on you as a landlord. We are investing Dh640 million this time and enjoy occupancy rate of 97 per cent; we are going to fill the remaining three per cent by the year-end," Sharaf told Khaleej Times in an interview on Sunday. Sharaf noted that there is very little cannibalisation in the market.
"We have strong operators. In reality, the market is healthy the demand is there. That's why we are investing and expanding. Otherwise we won't put money in the malls." He stressed that investors out there are desperate and hungry who want to invest in shopping malls and retail business.
An Alpen Capital report had said that the UAE retail market remained resilient amid a slowdown in economy. Operators have simultaneously adapted to the shifting consumer needs by engaging with them through digital technologies, offering discounts and sales.
"With the fall in consumer spending due to introduction of VAT and reduction in subsidies, retailers have also started emphasising on improving efficiencies, cutting costs and operating digital channels in conjunction with brick-and-mortar retailing," it said.
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