Time to raise the stakes-Saudi mall owners

Saudi’s shopping centre developers are stronger than ever. They’re expanding their markets and are ready to face all challenges.

The kingdom’s largest mall operator is about 950,000 square meters of gross leasable area and it also has 19 malls. By 2018, the mall it expected to have 10 additional malls

Even in Tier 2 locations, “We will be building 50,000-60,000 square metre shopping destinations that are huge for those cities,” said Khalid Al Jasser (CEO of Arabian Centres). “Just because they are smaller cities, our new malls will not shrink in size. Retailers are interested in coming to these locations and tapping the consumer there. And we are mixing shopping and entertainment options whereby the footfall we attract will want to spend time at a fine dining restaurant inside the mall than at one on the high-street.”

“The way I see it, it’s a compliment to Saudi Arabia if these investments are coming from outside the country. It will improve the competitive levels and that can only lead to improving the overall quality”. Al Jasser

“With more and more of new shopping destinations being created in Saudi Arabia, the question of local shopping versus doing so in London or Paris becomes irrelevant. Why would any Saudi shoppers stand in long queues on their foreign trips to get a tax refund on their shopping? In 90 per cent of the instances they don’t get the refund because the process is too long. So much so, I wonder whether it’s deliberate (on the part of the authorities there). And it’s not cheaper buying abroad — add up the hotel rates, the airline tickets and it can be quite expensive. It can easily be done shopping in Saudi itself.” Al Jasser

Al Jasser also added “We have been in this business for 15 years … we do know what we’re doing. Others can make the decisions for themselves as to what they want to do. Certainly, we will look at cost efficiencies where possible. But it will not be on the construction parameters, but from a mall operating point of view”.

“We are not conservative when it comes to raising debts for projects. The scale of the projects means we need all the financing we can get.”

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