Growing social spaces

January 19, 2024 | By RetailME Bureau

Growing Social Spaces panel discussion at SRF 2023

Shopping centres are the modern-day agoras, buzzing hubs where commerce meets community. And that’s why we at IMAGES RetailME call them ‘Social Spaces’. We got the doyens of retail real estate in KSA to share their insights on the art of nurturing tenant relationships and various other key factors for the success of social spaces, while adapting nimbly to consumer preferences and tech advances.

At the Saudi Retail Forum 2023 when talking about and explaining the future of shopping malls in the region Mike Wanliss, Vice President, KSA, Alshaya Group said, “We operate more than 1,000 stores in the region and have a presence of 42+ brands from our portfolio, here in the region. What is interesting to notice is the power of transformation and the speed with which infrastructure development is happening in this region. The growing social spaces or shopping malls is an investment, and it hints at building long-term bonds that give rise to steady retail relationships”. 

Faisal Abdulrahman Alnasser CEO, Alandulus Property continuing to discuss the various aspects of development and government initiatives mentioned, “The Kingdom is experiencing developments in two-fold, on one part it’s the government initiatives and the giga projects and on the other is the private companies. However, there is no way to think of these giga projects or the government initiatives as a threat, but it is necessary to look at these as opportunities. They are the torchbearers of change, and we all need to support and strategize our growth plans in such a way that we can build a conducive ecosystem of development for every stakeholder of retail.”

Mark Harris, Operations Director, MUVI here added, “Cinema is a recent phenomenon, and it is picking up very fast. We started just 4 and half years back and within this short period, have been able to grow our presence massively to touch 60 screens. Cinema as a business has had to suffer its share of lags owing to several contributing global factors. However, the growth in KSA for cinema is phenomenal and the local cinema industry is fueling the prospect of the theatre business. We aim to support this growth by making strategic choices of locations when it comes to expanding across the region”.

Walid Chahine, Chief Operating Officer, AZADEA Group presented a unique understanding and said, “When looking at the Saudi market we adopted a varied strategy and looked to bring in a portfolio of international F&B players to the market as most of our champion brands in other categories were already present in the market. This approach works for us as today F&B plays a big role in pushing retail growth, especially in developing markets. In fact, with e-commerce registering double-digit growth, customers will need a reason to visit malls and the diverse portfolio of food service retailers will create that much needed hook.”

“Lifestyle shopping malls lead the way when it comes to the future of shopping malls, across the globe. In Saudi what has grown to come under the radar is the shopping malls emerging as international hubs when it comes to entertainment, shopping, F&B and much more,” observed Mohamed Galal, President & CEO, TSM. “But the speed at which development is happening is interesting to note and what is even heartwarming is the growth of homegrown across categories – brands that are finding their niche to evolve and grow.”

“In light of the big developments and giga projects happening in the Kingdom, the shopping centre ecosystem is also changing and diversifying very fast. There is a lot to consider when it comes to these social spaces and the entire ecosystem needs to also keep in mind the customer needs to build the right approach. From cinema to F&B and even the other categories of retail must prioritise the growing customer requirements to build their base and make it cohesive to the dynamically changing landscape of KSA,” summarised Mohammad Alawi, Chairman of the Board, Azad Properties.

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