Qatar’s retail scene is about to change dramatically with the imminent opening of three new mixed-use malls: Mall of Qatar, Doha Festival City Mall (DFCM) and Tawar Mall.
All of these will incorporate five-star hotels to cement their destination credentials, and all will be keen to promote their unique selling points in an increasingly competitive environment.
“The market here is not yet as developed or professional as Dubai,” says Pedro Ribeiro, the general manager of Tawar Mall.
“But it will quickly move to an oversupply of activities. The difference to win success will be the level of the activities. To make people come back and repeat the experience.”
Ribeiro joined Tawar Mall in September 2015 having previously managed in recent years a number of Europe’s and the GCC’s largest shopping centres.
And the Portuguese national draws on that experience to insist that he is not participating in a race to be the first of the three malls to open, and in fact he thinks that is unlikely.
Tawar Mall’s target opening date of November 1 has been selected to ensure it is ready for both its retailers and shoppers rather than to beat the competition.
Tawar Mall will be a four-storey, 91,000m2 retail and leisure complex (with a further two storeys of basement parking), built on 301,000m2 of land at the junction of Al Markhiya Street and Arab League Street in Al Duhail.
Ribeiro has set the level of F&B at Tawar Mall higher than usual. “F&B as a percentage by total activity in a mall is normally 15%-20%. But because we understand the local culture in Doha we have increased that to 23%.”
The F&B units will range in size from 120m2 up to 743m2. “We’ll be the only place in Qatar with three food courts — a fine dining food court, a traditional food court and an outside food court by a Burj Khalifa-style musical fountain.”
The priority is for local entrepreneurs to take the F&B units (as per Qatar’s vision 2030, says Ribeiro) and franchised concepts that will be seen in Qatar for the first time.
During a site visit, Hotelier Qatar spotted hoardings from restaurant brands including Mercato Express, Diwaniyat AlBoukhari, Marble Slab Creamery, Steak n Shake, Joe’s Crab Shack, Attila Mongolian Grill, Freej Lawal (from Stick House Group), Max Burger, Farggi Café, Bakers Boy Roti Café, Fish Gulf, and Doncafe House.
Ribeiro says that Mall of the Emirates in Dubai (anchored by Kempinski and Sheraton hotels) is the model to which Tawar Mall aspires. “It has the best sales per m2 in the world. So that’s a clear example of what this should be. And we’re doing something similar.”
One such attraction is Kaboom, described by Ribeiro as “an upgraded and better Kidzania”, which is being developed by Al Sidiqi working with US theme-park consultants. There will also be a 12-screen cinema.
A souq within the mall will appeal to traditionalists, and two fountains — one internal and one external musical fountain with regular shows — surrounded by four restaurants will provide the “wow factor”, he says.
The layout of the mall is as much a science as an art, says Ribeiro, with the zoning of retail outlet types to provide a “natural flow” for visitors.