Dozens of shoppers have been exploring Gulf Mall for the first time this week as Qatar’s newest shopping center unofficially opened for business.
Consumers are still greatly outnumbered by the contractors who are busy putting the finishing touches on many of the 200-plus stores inside the building, which is located next to Ezdan Mall and across the expressway from Landmark Mall.
Nevertheless, staff inside the eight outlets open for business today could be observed ringing up sales at a steady pace for their first customers.
The first shop to open was British fashion and home goods retailer Matalan late last month.
Today, seven stores managed by Qatar-based Azadea Holding, including Reserved, Piazza Italia, Oculis, Crazy 8, Tezenis, I AM and Calzedonia opened their doors.
Punt Roma and Jules are slated to open April 9, followed by Argo Tea and, for the first time in Qatar, American clothing store Old Navy later this month, said Ghayd Chammas, a senior marketing specialist at Azadea.
Speaking to Doha News, he added that he expects dozens of other stores in the mall managed by other companies to also gradually open throughout April.
No official opening date has been set yet for Gulf Mall, which is also expected to launch a cinema at some point.
But individual stores are free to open if they can provide proof that they have the necessary operating and safety permits, assistant mall manager Rosie Nmeir told Doha News.
Despite the growing number of residents – and therefore shoppers – in the country, real estate experts say Qatar will soon have a surplus of retail space.
Additionally, Gulf Mall will compete with existing shopping centers in the immediate vicinity, as well as established malls such as Villaggio and City Center.
Chammas said he’s confident that Gulf Mall would be able to hold its own against the country’s other shopping centers. Many of its stores, such as Reserved and Old Navy, will be the retailers’ only Qatar location.
“People will come here because they are looking for a specific brand,” he said.
Indeed, one woman who spoke to Doha News said she came to Gulf Mall specifically to shop at Matalan.
“There was one in Abu Dhabi, and this is the first in Doha,” she said while exiting the store and going to take a look at the rest of the mall.
While there are several other outlets in Gulf Mall that are unique to Qatar, such as American breakfast chain IHOP, others stores such as Al Meera and Daiso Japan will be familiar to many local residents.
Chammas said another factor working in Gulf Mall’s favor is that its retail mix primarily consists of mid-range stores such as H&M, in contrast to other shopping centers focused on high-end, luxury products.
“You have a mass population that’s interested in affordable brands,” he said. “Most (expats) come to Qatar with the intent of saving money.”
Chammas also credited the mall’s design, which features underground parking, wide corridors – enabling shoppers to see more stores from a single spot as well as giving the mall a less-crowded feel – and skylights that allow sunlight to illuminate the building.
“There are a high percentage of people in the area who have relatively high incomes, but who don’t want to bother with the traffic (involved in driving to other malls),” he said.