Malls are evolving to reposition themselves closer to communities


April 7, 2022 | By Zubina Ahmed

As we are moving closer to a post-covid era, Malls are evolving to reposition themselves within communities and immediate neighborhoods. Think showrooms, fulfilment centres, banks, medical clinics,  groceries and entertainment, customers have a get-in, do what they came for and get-out attitude.  Instead of expecting shoppers to drive miles to an out-of-town mall, today’s shopping centers want to be closer to the community. There are more than 100 community malls across UAE and the culture of convenient shopping experience is high. Tourists flock to the bigger malls while community malls are in neighbourhoods, smaller in size, which makes shopping easier. Take Deerfields mall which serves the surrounding community of Abu Dhabi-Dubai border. One of the only malls in the area to be 97% leased, it also serves as a central retail outlet for those travelling between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. “As a community focused mall, our diverse offerings cater to a wide audience and make it the go-to retail space for shopaholics living close to the Abu Dhabi-Dubai border” said Mohammed Al Haj, CEO of Deerfields Mall. 

With more than 240 retailers and 44 F&B outlets, Deerfields mall features an extensive portfolio from clothing and accessories, home wear, electronics, jewellery, customer facilities such as prayer rooms, valet parking, car wash, ATMs, CDMs, charging stations, government services, youth sports ground, padel tennis or badminton, gaming, early education activities, open-air eateries and outdoor cinemas. “We also have dining options that cater to several palates and recently we extended our Restaurant Walk with a beautiful Garden area overlooking the fountain.In the coming months, our portfolio will see further expansion, which we are excited to announce soon”, added Mohammed.

Today’s mall operators know there’s much more to shopping centers than typical department stores or retail spaces. The traditional enclosed fortress-type buildings are out. Opening up space and adding outdoor event zones and green spaces also helps to create more of a community feel and to make it more appealing to consumers. Plus, by connecting the mall to the outside, it improves accessibility and visibility, which benefits retailers.”There is a need for both small and big malls. At Deerfields Mall, we are constantly looking to create experiential initiatives through our events and marketing campaigns. Our outdoor cinema campaign, for instance, is a great example of a country-wide trend that creates an exciting family atmosphere for the public whereby they can relax, watch movies, snack, and feel right at home”, revealed Mohammed

Consumer expectations is all about how you engage the customer to ensure they keep coming back for more. As more malls reshape their position in an increasingly digital world, their future is about much more than retail alone.“ The region’s retail ecosystem is particularly expansive. Looking to the future, experiential retail experiences are something we will be continuing to focus on, for sure.  I think we’re going to see a lot more mixed-use concepts going forward”. Making your stance in the region is a crucial part in the overall success of any shopping destination. “We genuinely feel strongly about serving our local community and making sure not only that they are happy and feel catered to, but also that they feel listened to. If there is something they want or feel we lack, we are ready to take such feedback on board as ultimately it will benefit everyone”. Indeed, whatever malls choose to call themselves in the future, the successful ones will boast features that promote connectivity and community to ensure they’re destinations in their own right.”, said Mohammad. 

Covid-19 undoubtedly had a colossal impact, however 2022 has so far proved a real turning point in terms of visitor engagement. Most community malls rely on residents in their immediate catchment area and not really tourists. “Despite being a community mall, we’ve seen a real rise in customers visiting from locations across the wider Abu Dhabi region and that is very reassuring” stated Mohammad. With the world being forced to adapt to stringent health and safety measures, it had a large, unavoidable impact on footfall. “We’ve worked tirelessly as a business to continue serving the community in a safe and fun way and thankfully. I am glad we are receiving a growing number of visitors once more and I predict that we’ll soon be back to pre-Covid times and, as our recovery strategy continues to take effect, footfall and atmosphere will be back better than ever before, concluded Mohammad.

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