Bloomingdale’s, seeking to boost its presence in the Middle East, appears close to a deal in the Sowwah Central megamall being developed in Abu Dhabi, according to sources.
This story first appeared in the February 4, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In Dubai, Bloomingdale’s has a three-level, 146,000-square-foot apparel and accessories store and a one-level, 54,000-square-foot home store that together anchor The Dubai Mall. The two stores are managed and operated by Al Tayer Insignia, a division of Al Tayer Group, under a licensing agreement.
Bloomingdale’s in Abu Dhabi is likely to be arranged with Al Tayer, but no deal has been revealed.
The sources said the department store’s decision to open in Abu Dhabi is based on the strong performance of its Dubai units, which have been operating since February 2010, and the vast economic and population growth anticipated for Abu Dhabi.
Macy’s Inc., the parent company of Bloomingdale’s, declined to comment on Abu Dhabi, but corporate spokesman Jim Sluzewski said, “We have said for a long time that we are interested in international over time for both Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s and we are always looking at potential opportunities. We don’t have anything to report” regarding Abu Dhabi.
Gulf Related, the Mideast unit of Related Urban, based in New York, is developing the $1 billion, 2.3 million-square-foot Sowwah Central megamall, which is scheduled to open in 2017 and will include two anchor tenants. It’s considered a shopping and leisure complex and has plans to include about 300 other retailers; cafés and restaurants; a health club; a cinema; apartments, and a hotel. Bloomingdale’s could have more than 200,000 square feet.
Sowwah Center is contiguous with the Sowwah Square mixed-use development on Al Maryah Island where Related is also creating a 355,000-square-foot luxury shopping and dining center called The Galleria. That’s expected to open in August and according to Related is fully leased. Related had no comment on the Bloomingdale’s report.
Abu Dhabi, one of the richest cities in the world, has two established malls, the Abu Dhabi and Marina malls. There’s also the Yas Mall, under development.
“Abu Dhabi is very underretailed. It represents a long-term opportunity for brands,” said a source familiar with the region.
The government of Abu Dhabi has a master plan called Abu Dhabi 2030 involving economic development, transportation, housing, culture, wildlife preservation and retail growth. The area has a population of more than two million and is the second-biggest metro area within the United Arab Emirates, next to Dubai. Abu Dhabi’s population is expected to exceed three million by 2030.
“Abu Dhabi is up and coming — big time,” said the source. “It’s really a huge market that’s diversifying” beyond its large inventories of oil and natural gas and into such sectors as technology and aerospace.
Saks Fifth Avenue in the Middle East has licensed stores in Dubai and Bahrain and recently closed a unit in Riyadh. Overseas, Saks also has two stores in Mexico and one in Kazakhstan.