Shopping malls have opened up in Doha and its outskirts over the past years even the high-end ones that opened lately.
However, behind the fast changing shopping malls waits an appropriate question, will the malls be able to get enough footfalls they need to get going in coming years? What happens in future will be revealed soon enough but for now shoppers seems to be having a good time.
At least six new shopping centres and malls are planned in the next three years, according to some reports.
Qatar is known as a mall-friendly country and most of the malls are constantly busy with people, especially during the hotter months. However, malls are not just shopping destinations for many, they are increasingly becoming entertainment and dinning attractions as well.
Over the past few years, the opening of malls and hypermarkets has immensely changed the shopping scene in Qatar. The traditional souqs and the neighbourhood stores that once dominated the market have lost their attraction with the arrival of big shopping malls that offer customers ‘everything under one roof.’
The 8-kilometre Barwa Commercial Avenue, on the Abu Hamour-Industrial Area Road, is one of the largest and longest shopping facilities in the world, offering a mix of commercial and residential space. Ezdan has three malls in Gharrafa, Al Wakra and Wukair under its new arm, Ezdan Mall Company.
Al Hazm partially opened its doors to visitors early this month. Al Hazm is designed like a former shopping arcade in Italy with lot of classical European splendor. It has the original Tuscan marble from Italy, stones from Palestine and special artisans from a remote village in Rajasthan, India, to complete the QR3bn project.
Mall of Qatar and Doha Festival City are best examples of malls offering a wide range of shopping, dining and entertainment destinations.
Mall of Qatar can combine all three, dining or entertainment together, as a shopping mall. It provides visitors with brands that span entry level labels to luxury ones, and with more than 80 new names in the Qatar market. Visitors will be astonished by the 500 varied retail, dining and café options, with 100 food and beverage outlets.
“The number of visitors has far exceeded the expectations in the first six months of opening, that shows that Mall of Qatar is on course to receive over 20 million visitors per annum, Rony Mourani, General Manager at Mall of Qatar, told The Peninsula in a recent interview.
According to him, Mall of Qatar has not just become popular among people in Qatar but also in the region as a destination for families and friends of all ages. “Mall of Qatar sees visitors from across the GCC, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain,” says Mourani.
The customers, who are the important players of any shopping facility have varying opinions on this issue.
Tuan Hazzim, a longtime resident in Qatar, said, “When I came to Qatar in the early 80s, there was only ‘The Centre’ as a shopping centre. But then the different souqs were very popular and crowded. With time many shopping malls opened, now we have the most attractive ones.”
“Now we have a wide choice. People can choose to buy from the cheapest to most expensive brand of clothes, choose between the traditional and new food outlets. Even if one has no shopping plans, the new malls are good to sit and relax or try some new food,” he added.
Shafnaz Mustaq, who moved to Doha from Saudi Arabia two years ago, said, “Despite the fact that malls are considered shopping centres, the places are often bustling with people going on grocery run, watching movies, having food or just to escape the hot weather. I have also seen many people doing their fitness activities like walking in malls. But some malls like the Mall of Qatar and Al Hazm have amazing atmosphere, I really admire their architecture as it feels pleasant feel to be there for dining and spending time.”
Another frequent visitor to malls, Rimzia Farook, said that opening of new malls gives wide range of new choices. “When a new mall opens my children will insist going there. In every new mall I have found different dining and shopping experiences. Some malls have new brands, others have the same. Even if the brands are the same the selections are different. Cinemas provide advanced technology and fine atmosphere.”
Mohamed Shiyab, a driver working in Qatar for more than 15 years, said, “When I came to Doha there were few shopping malls, when the Villaggio Mall opened we were so excited. At most malls, we can’t afford to buy anything but I always go there during a weekday to see the place and take photos.”