Phase 2 of Meraas project City Walk opens with romantic touch

Phase 2 of the Meraas developed City Walk in Dubai will open with a touch of romance today as AW Rostamani Lifestyle expands its retail portfolio into the new development.

AW Rostamani, the UAE group represented across a number of industries including car sales and service, property, retail and IT, plans to open a Georg Jensen jewellery store in the new retail space for Valentine’s Day today and a home decor outlet, Apartment 51, in City Walk in May.

The two brands will be part of a raft of new names that the group intends to bring to the UAE over the next three years, bucking the softening trend in the retail climate.

“We will be bringing two or three new jewellery brands, 15 to 20 fashion brands and a couple of home decor lines over the next few years,” said Joseph Faddoul, the general manager for AW Rostamani Lifestyle. “While last year was challenging for many sectors, mid-market affordable brands still grew by double digits. I cannot say what our investment will be but it is not about the money, it is about the opportunities that we see around the country – and this country has many opportunities. We may not be in all the big malls now, but that is our target.”

He continued, saying the mid-market brands that did not rely on Russian visitors and wealthy tourists still performed strongly and gave great hope for the retail environment. However, Dubai’s private sector recorded its weakest growth in five-and-a-half years in December amid the strong US dollar and regional and global economic uncertainty. The rents demanded by mall operators, which have pushed ever upwards for the past seven years, may taper with the tightening of disposable income.

“The strong US dollar means that the goods in the UAE are now expensive for visitors and residents alike,” said Matthew Green, the head of research and consulting at CBRE’s Dubai office. “Even for countries that provide our biggest visitor numbers, like in Saudi Arabia, there has been a tightening of the public purse, and that affects retailers first.

“I can’t say there will be a down­turn in mall rents, but good malls are a collaboration between landlord and tenant, and therefore one should see an easing of rents if soft economic conditions persist.”

While a new supermall has not opened in Dubai since November 2008, with the opening of Dubai Mall, City Walk Phase 2, the sprawling Dh919 million, 1 million square feet family entertainment and retail complex in Jumeirah will include a bio-dome to recreate a tropical forest in an enclosed ecosystem.

Representatives of Meraas, when contacted by The National, declined to comment.

Andrew Love, the head of investment and commercial agency at property consultants Cavendish Maxwell, said: “The area will attract not only established retailers but new brand concepts, while positively enhancing what had traditionally been a residential area.”

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