New malls, theme parks to lift GCC retail sector growth by up to 12%

Despite a softening in some markets of the GCC construction sector, and slow global oil price recovery, retail industry in the region is expected to see yearly growth between 7 to 12 % on the back of expansions in leisure facilities like theme parks, new malls, as well as mega events like Expo 2020, and FIFA World Cup 2022.

International and local designing and shop fit out companies in the sector are expected to reap benefits from this growth, because of the increasing focus on ‘Shoppertainment’ and consumer comfort in the market.

Opinion leaders from the retail design industry who met at a roundtable organised by Smart Stores Expo 2017 recently, were of the opinion that with more and more international brands entering the booming MENA retail market, sustainability is gaining interest among retailers.

The panellists at the session said that 85 to 90% of the materials used in retail or any interior designing process in the region are imported, which makes sustainability a challenge. Thus, achieving sustainability in retail designing starts with selecting the right material to value engineering, to installing energy efficient products.

“In terms of design, regional retailers are following a more matured European model, although price is the deciding factor when it comes to sustainability, energy efficiency and technology adoption. There is an increasing focus on consumer comfort and ‘Shoppertainment’, which is driving innovation in the retail design sector. In order to retain customers and enhance satisfaction, it is important to involve the operations department. Clear communication between procurement and operations is necessary for attaining a well-grounded store design.”

Mohit Ahuja added that Wanzl, a leader in turnkey design solutions for FMCG and a pioneer of smart trolleys for the retail sector, is concentrating on educating clients to involve operations in the design process.

Speaking about the challenges in achieving the optimum design, which is sustainable too, Patrick Fallmann, Managing Director of UMDASCH Shopfitting – Middle East, said, “When we value engineer retail space, we not only keep in mind the client requirements but also think about their customers. The challenge is to achieve a balance between sustainable design and the client’s short term financial requirements.”

Srinivasa Raghavan, Senior Division Manager Chalhoub Group, who also moderated the session, said that everyone involved in the retail chain from the infrastructure solution provider, to shop owner, to the consumer shopping in the store is responsible for the overall sustainability of the industry.

“The government, with an aim to make Dubai one of the most sustainable city, has a number of initiatives to reduce energy consumptions. Malls too are following the lead and implementing ideas to adopt sustainability in design, what is required is a consolidation of these efforts and standardisation of practices according to regional needs.”