Aswaaq reveals retail expansion plan in Dubai

Aswaaq, the supermarket and mall operator owned by Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD), has revealed a Dh110 million expansion plan.

The group, founded with aim of boosting Emirati employment in the retail sector, aims to open three more community malls and three stand-alone supermarkets in Dubai next year. It currently owns and operates 11 community malls and supermarkets in Dubai. The expansion will increase its retail space by about 100,000 square feet.

Aswaaq also said it increased revenues by 15 per cent in 2015 without disclosing its figures.

The company wants to open 50 supermarkets across the UAE by 2021 with Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Fujairah firmly in its sights. The first supermarket outside Dubai is pencilled in for early 2017.

Speaking of the expansion Yousef Sharaf, the chief executive of aswaaq, said the company’s opening plans were realistic.

“2016 will see the opening of three additional community malls in Al Quoz 2, Al Warqaa 3 and Nad Al Shiba 4,” said Mr Sharaf. “We will also be opening three stand-alone supermarkets. Our growth has come as we enter developing communities early and offer services that neighbourhoods need and gain first mover advantage.

“We plan to open six or seven supermarkets a year, which is is well within our capabilities. This year we launched our online shopping platform, and during the ensuing 12 months we will continue to expand our e-commerce presence.”

Aswaaq is the brainchild of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The company was founded in 2008 to increase the number of Emirati nationals working in retail, from administration to front-line roles that were not traditionally filled by UAE nationals.

The company offers Emirati entrepreneurs – members of the Mohammed bin Rashid Fund for SMEs and the Khalifa Fund – a 20 per cent discount on rent for three years in its neighbouring stores and help on establishing their businesses legally and structurally.

“We do not have as many UAE nationals working on the shop floor as we did in 2008,” said Mr Sharaf. “Now we have about 20 per cent of UAE nationals in senior management positions in head office as they have worked through the company. Also 34 per cent of our tenants in our malls are UAE nationals that have set up SMEs.”

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