Consumer power: mega malls

With news that a tender to build a Dh2.5bn shopping centre on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah, Vision explores how malls continue to buck the global downturn everywhere

Despite predictions that malls would soon become a shopping feature of the past due to the explosion in online buying, shopping centres are not only alive around the world, they are kicking.

The rise of internet shopping has been phenomenal over the past years. Global e-commerce sales topped US$1trillion for the first time in 2012, and will grow at a rate of 16.8 per cent annually Goldman Sachs said. However, far from signaling the end of shopping centres, the growth in online sales has actually encouraged them to adapt – and improve.

CBRE, the world's leading commercial property and real estate services adviser, recently revealed that an unprecedented 32 million square metre of shopping centre space is currently under construction globally. That is 15 per cent more than last year, with most of the development activity concentrated in emerging markets and notably China. Furthermore, CBRE predicts emerging markets will continue to dominate new development in 2013-2015.

To attract visitors, the world’s new malls have become real architectural and engineering feats. One example is the Khan Shatyr shopping and entertainment center in Kazakhstan. Designed by world-renowned architects Foster and Partners, it features the world's largest tent, a tensile transparent structure that lights up at night. Morocco Mall, Africa’s largest mall, was designed by Davide Padoa. It features a musical fountain and Aquadream, an aquarium with over 40 different species of fish.

The new generation of malls are not just a beautiful place for people to shop, they often provide a vast array of leisure or cultural attractions. Many of China’s mega-malls for instance double up as amusement parks. The New Century Global Center in Chengdu hosts the Paradise Island Water Park, which features an interior beach, complete with artificial sun. In Malaysia, the 1 Utama Mall offers an indoor rainforest with koi basins.

Increasingly, malls are also a place where people live and work, as they integrate office space and residential schemes, such as Istanbul’s Cehavir Mall in Turkey.

In Dubai, which already boasts a profusion of some of the world’s largest and most beautiful malls, more shopping centres are planned to attract an increasing number of visitors. Real estate developer Nakheel issued a tender early October for the construction of a new, Dh2.5 billion shopping centre on Palm Jumeirah Island. The Nakheel Mall and Hotel complex will offer 418,000m² of retail, dining and entertainment space over five levels and is due to be completed in 2016.

Nakheel chairman Ali Rashid Lootah said: “Nakheel Mall will bring a new dimension to shopping, dining and leisure in Dubai. It will enhance the services and facilities available to residents of Palm Jumeirah, and provide an exciting new destination for people across the UAE, including the millions of tourists who visit our country each year.”