Shoppers will have to wait a little bit longer than expected before setting foot inside one of the largest malls under construction in Qatar.
With roughly 75 percent of its building work complete, the Mall of Qatar now said it will open by September 2016. That’s several months later than the “early 2016” timeframe that had been previously discussed for the shopping center. It was originally scheduled to open this month.
Located west of Education City on the Dukhan Highway, the Mall of Qatar is projected to cost US$1.2 billion (QR4.37 billion), according to its proponents. Officials previously said the facility would have a price tag of $824 million (QR3 billion).
The Mall of Qatar is one of several large-scale shopping centers scheduled to open in the coming years.
In addition to existing malls such as Villaggio, City Center and the recently opened Gulf Mall, Mall of Qatar will be competing against Doha Festival City – scheduled to open in fall 2016 – and the US$1.25 billion Place Vendôme in Lusail, which is slated to be complete in the third quarter of 2017.
Real estate developers and retailers have rushed to Qatar in recent years to cash in on the country’s rising affluence and rapidly growing population.
This means there are roughly a dozen malls either in the planning or construction stage, real estate services firm DTZ reported earlier this year.
These projects will collectively triple the amount of retail space in Qatar, which some observers predict will lead to an oversupplied market and vacant storefronts.
However, Mall of Qatar is not expected to have many of those issues when it opens. Officials said 85 percent of the shopping center is leased, with confirmed tenants including a two-story Hamleys toy store, a “luxury” Carrefour grocery store and a 19-screen cinema.
Similarly, Doha Festival City told Doha News last December that it was 80 percent leased and confident it would fill the remaining space before opening day. Stores that have been announced for the shopping center, which already features Ikea, include Harvey Nichols, H&M, Debenhams, Mothercare, Shake Shack, Pinkberry and Qatar’s first Pottery Barn.
Despite its diverse retail offerings, one Mall of Qatar official said he expected to compete in large part on the strength of the shopping center’s entertainment offerings.
“(Mega malls are) no longer are they primarily about shopping,” said Rony Mourani, the shopping center’s general manager, in a statement following this month’s InRetail Summit in Dubai.
“When consumers visit malls, they are looking for experiences that go well beyond traditional shopping. The growing middle class in the Middle East maintains a strong association between consumption and pleasure, driving the need for more engaging shopping experiences … (Mall operators) must envision themselves no longer as real estate brokers, but instead as retailtainers,” he added.
KidzMondo – a miniature city where children can “work” as pilots, doctors or firefighters – will be one of the key family attractions at Mall of Qatar.
Meanwhile, Doha Festival City will feature the region’s first Angry Birds theme park, a space-themed role play zone, an e-sports gaming arena, F1 and flight simulators and a snow park.