Home-grown business, aswaaq Retail has launched a brand-new entity for the real estate division of the company called aswaaq Properties aswaaq has developed 11 community-oriented properties. Four among those – launched since late last year – are new and fall under two formats – Mall and Community Centre. Of these four new properties, two each fall under the Mall and Community Centre categories. Two of the new Malls sporting an urban look and feel are located in Nad Al Sheba 4 and Al Quoz, while the locations of the new Community Centres are in Al Barsha South 2 and Al Warqa 3.
The obvious question is the strategy behind creating a new identity – aswaaq Properties? “We felt the need for change based on the same rhythm with Dubai developments. Over the years, our properties have done very well, striking a chord in the communities. However, there was a need for a fresh look and feel – in sync with the design aesthetics of new Dubai and new consumer demand – alongside creating a distinct growth path. Thus, we decided to create a separate entity with aswaaq Properties and developed a new logo too,” explains Abdulhamid Khashabi, manager, aswaaq Properties.
The new design aesthetics render aswaaq’s newly launched retail properties cosy yet vibrant with an urban look-and-feel through the use of colours and modern architectural elements. While the aswaaq Malls sport box-style closed structures, aswaaq Communities Centres are open at the centre promoting an outdoors-in ambience.
Commenting on the decision to create a semi-open set-up for the Community Centres, Khashabi explains, “The UAE sees great weather for almost five months. That’s when we will host community centric activations to add excitement to the developments. In addition, we have ensured great accessibility into the Community Centres wherein visitors can place an order and have it delivered to their cars, not even stepping out. That’s how your neighbourhood bakalas used to operate; we will offer a similar – friendly – experience in a modern ambience.” The new design has attracted a legion of new tenants. In keeping with its commitment to promote home-grown businesses, aswaaq has allocated 25% space to small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) in its four new properties as well. “We have seen significant demand for home-grown brands in all our retail properties,” Khashabi shares.
Elaborating further, he cites, “Our new design has resonated so well with the communities that the word has spread far and wide. A while ago, we did an activity in Hatta, and the adjoining communities there expressed keenness for our new design aswaaq retail properties.” aswaaq Properties’ smaller format Community Centres offer an average 13,000 sqft of GLA, which goes up in the bigger properties. “Right from inception, our idea was to get closer to the communities. Instead of the communities coming to us, we wanted to reach them. We are ever-keen to serve the communities we operate in, becoming their go-to destination for all kinds of daily needs,” Khashabi elaborated. “Thus, before planning the retail mix, we take a deep dive into what the catchment areas need, what kind of retail brands will survive and thrive in our properties and plan our tenancy mix accordingly. That’s why, in our retail properties, you will always find the right mix – from a supermarket to pharmacy; salon to stationery shop; money exchange to florist; as well as select restaurants and cafés.”
Adding more on the F&B mix, he elaborates, “We try to create a healthy mix of cuisines, so the neighbourhood communities get the opportunity to eat at different places every time they visit us. Our loyalty programme, Wafa, has been very successful – the first in the UAE market to offer customers significant cash back on their purchases and there will be a future plan to enrol our tenants and partners into the programme. We always look at creating a retail proposition that is
beneficial for our tenants, our customers and us.” In addition to the Malls and Community Centres, there are two more divisions under aswaaq Properties. These include aswaaq Warehouse and ‘Dakakeen’, which is reminiscent of the olden-day souk, where readymade structures are created for SMEs to rent and sell their wares. Going forward, aswaaq Properties will evaluate the need to upgrade its older properties. Whenever an upgrade happens, it will follow the design aesthetics from its new concepts. “For example, one of our properties is currently undergoing expansion and will sport the new design as part of the upgrade plan,” Khashabi reveals.
As part of future growth plans, aswaaq Properties will start construction of four new properties in 2020, scheduled for opening by 2021. “All four projects will fall under the Community Centre format and are in the design stage,” Khashabi reveals. “What will always remain a prime objective is to stay as close to the communities as possible. aswaaq has reaped the first-mover advantage of getting into the communities, a trend that is now becoming common. After all, globally, the trend is towards building smaller brick-and-mortar spaces to cater to the needs of the immediate catchment areas,” he concludes.