Doha Festival City fills up, as Harvey Nichols expands to Qatar

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As construction continues apace on what will become Qatar’s biggest shopping mall, the London-based luxury department store Harvey Nichols confirmed it will launch in the country in early 2017 with an outlet at Doha Festival City mall.

The retailer, which has its flagship store in Knightsbridge and is known colloquially as “Harvey Nicks,” signed an agreement with Qatar’s Saleh Al Hamad Al Mana Group to take 80,000 square feet (7,430 square meters) of space. This makes it an anchor tenant for the mall, which will open its doors several months earlier in September 2016.

The Doha store will have an “exclusive edit” of fashion, beauty, childrenswear, homeware and hospitality services.

It is the first high-end, international department store to be confirmed as a tenant by DFC and symbolizes the start of a battle to attract the biggest names in retail by the numerous malls planned to open in Qatar in the coming years.

So far, 80 percent of the DFC has now been leased, well ahead of schedule, the mall operators told Doha News, adding they are confident that it will be fully let by the time it opens.

Announcing the expansion to Qatar, Harvey Nichols’ chief executive Stacey Cartwright said in a statement:

“Doha is an exciting market for Harvey Nichols due to the significant growth we are seeing in the country. The Qatari customer is increasingly important to our UK business and we look forward to being able to service them in their home market.”

Regional expansion

Qatar will be the eighth international location for Harvey Nichols outside of the UK and Ireland and the fourth store in the Gulf, after Dubai, Kuwait and Riyadh. It also has two outlets each in Hong Kong and Turkey and is about to launch a shop in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku.

Harvey Nichols Dubai

Simon Q/Flickr

Harvey Nichols Dubai

Known for stocking some of the world’s leading designer and fashion names, it is also popular for its own branded luxury foodstuffs, as well as its food market, cafes and restaurants, which are popular locations to “see and be seen.”

However, it is not without controversy. In 2013, after a 10-year embargo, its UK stores started re-selling real fur, sparking ongoing protests from anti-fur lobbyists PETA and other organizations. Harvey Nichols Dubai has also sold fur-trimmed items in its winter collections in the past.

Today, Harvey Nichols won a battle in the UK courts to stop anti-fur protestors “disturbing” its customers. An injunction was granted, putting in place an exclusion zone outside the entrances to the UK stores and banning protestors’ use of megaphones.

Mall progress

Kareem Shamma, CEO of mall owner Bawabat Al Shamal Real Estate Co. (BASREC) told Doha News that attracting Harvey Nichols as an anchor tenant secured the luxury end of the mall’s offering, which will represent about 20 percent of its retailers.

“Harvey Nichols has a fantastic reputation and it will attract footfall from people who are looking for that sort of quality.

“But the mall won’t all be about luxury – we will have the full range of stores, catering to the marketplace,” he said.

Construction started on Doha Festival City October 2011, while work on the foundations began in January 2014. In May this year BASREC awarded a contract worth QR1.65 billion for the main works to a joint venture of Gulf Contracting Company and ALEC Qatar.

DFC construction

Peter Kovessy

Construction on Doha Festival City, seen in early November.

When complete, the mall will host 550 outlets, including 85 cafes and restaurants. Currently, the only tenant operating from the site is furniture and housewear giant IKEA, which opened its long-awaited store in March 2013.

However, two major retail groups – the Kuwait-based M H Alshaya Co. and Lebanon-based Azadea Group – have promised a host of other stores, including Qatar’s first Pottery Barn, as well as H&M, Debenhams, Mothercare, Shake Shack and Pinkberry.

In July this year, DFC announced that a full-sized, 7,200-square-meter Monoprix store would open on the ground floor. This will be Qatar’s second outlet of the French food and fashion store after the West Bay branch opened just over a year ago.

Entertainment at the mall will include the city’s largest movie theater, with the 15-screen VOX cinema complex which will also have Doha’s first 4D film experience.

The technology allows viewers to experience sensations as well as visuals – such as rain, fog, wind, bubbles, scents and vibrations – depending on what’s happening on-screen.

Other, high-energy outdoor activities due to be featured in the mall include a snow park, rapid-river rafting, bungees and a zip wire, Shamma told Doha News.

“We wanted to attract entertainment in a format that hasn’t been seen in a mall here before. These will be exciting, healthy and unique to the region,” he added.

Competition

With a number of new malls scheduled to open in Qatar in the next couple of years, competition between them is fierce to secure attractions and big names to drive footfall.

Among the attractions planned for Mall of Qatar, which is due to open towards the end of next year, are Angry Birds theme park, digital Formula One racing and a Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatic theater.

Shamma said that the newcomers to Qatar’s shopping scene will help to shake things up a bit.

“The retail market will be crowded for a while, as retail is at its zenith at the moment. But very quickly the wheat will separate from the chaff and the quality malls will stand out, while the poorly designed and run malls will fall away.

“Our size and the diversity of what we will offer will attract people, who want the whole experience of DFC. Our mall management will also be of international standards, so it will be a well-run, very well-organized place,” he added.

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