AT Kearney recently revealed its Global Retail Development Index (GRDI) ranking the top 30 developing countries for retail investment. Within the Middle East, Qatar is ranked for the first time at the fourth position owing to its stable economy, high GDP per capita and high levels of retail spending.
The UAE drops from fourth to seventh position largely due to new entries in the rankings. The retail market in the UAE continues to grow steadily with retail space growing by 7% in 2014 to reach 17.2 million sqft and sales growing 6% to $70.9 billion.
Saudi Arabia occupies the 17th rank as retail space grew 5.6% to 22.6 million sqft in 2014, and sales increased 6.4%. In KSA traditional shops (bakalas) still form a large part of the market offering enough room for modern retail to grow.
Jordan, Oman and Kuwait hold 25th, 26th and 27th ranks, respectively. In the past year the Middle East has faced substantial economic and political upheaval and the drop in rankings this year is due to increased country risk in Jordan and GDP slowdown from falling oil prices in Kuwait.
However, despite the record drop in oil prices, retail sales growth is expected to continue. The retail space pipeline remains strong with several major projects underway in Qatar, the UAE and Oman. Kuwait has felt the impact disproportionately due to its high reliance on oil and relative lack of diversification.
The trend of regional expansion by local champions also continues as several UAE and Saudi players, including Majid Al Futtaim (MAF), Landmark Group and Panda build strong capabilities and retail networks across the region. Additionally, the Middle East continues to welcome international brands such as Macy’s in the UAE and Harvey Nichols in Qatar in addition to expansion from existing retailers.