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The Dubai Mall by Emaar Malls 11

Welcome to Dubai or as CBRE calls it, the key stepping stone for international brands entering the Middle East. Over the next three years, more than 1.5 million square meters of new retail space could be delivered to the Dubai market, adding roughly 50% to existing inventory. 

Being on the Board of Advisors for the upcoming Dubai Smart Stores Expo and having personally experienced the vibrancy of Middle East on multiple occasions, it is time to revisit this region and explore its global retail possibilities.

The Digital Transformation of the Middle East

A high per capita income and an increasingly tech savvy population are driving a Middle East digital transformation.  


Bahrain, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates (UAE) already have 90%+ Internet Penetration.

The Promising Middle East Retail Future

In the past five years, retailers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries in the Middle East have outperformed their global peers in growth, EBITDA (Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization), and ROIC (Return on invested capital). 


With oil prices just slightly recovering from their 13-year low and continued geopolitical risks, the Middle East today is facing a more challenging environment.  Agree with McKinsey that retailers in the region have a wide-ranging set of commercial and operational levers to maintain growth. Focus should be on "three transformational imperatives - namely, developing a distinctive value proposition, pursuing strategic advantage in a functional area, and zeroing in on immediate sources of value."

In an increasingly IoT mobile connected world, these imperatives are foundational for overall success in any region.

The Brick & Mortal Physical Retail Experience Laboratory

My most vivid memory of visiting Dubai was the Mall of the Emirates, the world's first shopping resort.  Around 630 international brands are nestled together with Ski Dubai, the Middle East's first indoor ski resort and snow park. Yes, it even has a ski lift.


Now open is the new Dubai Mall, one of the world's largest retail shopping and entertainment complexes. More than 80 million people annually visit the over 1300 retail outlets in 3.77 million square feet of gross leasable area.

Located next to the 160-story skyscraper Burj Khalifa (currently the world's tallest building), the Dubai Mall includes a Virtual Reality (VR) park and the expansive Dubai Aquarium.


The future of retail will blend integrated living spaces, WOW factor entertainment, and immersive customer experiences through strong branding and technology.  

A Digital Reinvention of the Retail Experience

This post was inspired by a video on the planned Dubai Square, the world’s largest mall with gross leasable area (GLA) of 8 million square feet. It will be interesting to watch the digital to physical retail experimentation hinted in this video.  

The Dubai Square mega complex will be co-located next to the Dubai Creek Tower currently under construction. When completed in 2020, this skyscraper at 1300 meter / 4200+ feet will be the tallest building in the world.

I am looking forward to the immersion of ideas and technologies at the upcoming Smart Store Expo. Surrounding this Dubai innovation event is the perfect physical retail laboratory and the digital bridge that is the surprising benchmark for the future of retail. 

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