By Mariwan Faydullah Salihi
The Kurdish Globe
More than a dozen malls, opening soon, will incorporate global brands venturing into Iraq for the first time.
The opening of several new shopping malls in Erbil is set to transform the Iraqi retail market, according to experts. Large, mixed-use developments in Iraq's fastest-growing city are set to bring a number of famous global brands to the Iraqi people--many of them to enter the booming Iraqi retail market for the first time.
One such development is Mane Mall, a new shopping experience that will be located in Erbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan Region, with similar developments planned throughout Iraq. "Mane Mall will not only have a significant impact on the retail market in Iraq, but also on the local and national economy," said Jamie Majid, a director of BTWShiells, one of two developers of the new shopping complex.
Mane Mall will offer over 150 international brands including a hypermarket, department store, furniture store, multiplex cinema, bowling lanes, children's play area, fast-food court, and fine-dining experience. It will also benefit from an exclusive rooftop restaurant, which will give spectacular views of Erbil City and the nearby Tarin Hills. Directly linked to Mane Mall is a new 250-room hotel boasting superior conference facilities, a swimming pool, and spa.
On the sidelines of CityScape Abu Dhabi, a property and real estate exhibition held in the United Arab Emirates capital last March, Majid said: "The Iraqi people have had many years of hardship; it is time for the country to proposer and return to the great nation it once was. With huge natural reserves, the country has sound fundamentals, and with the relaxed investment laws, the government is encouraging foreign companies to enter the country. The security situation in Iraq has greatly improved recently. The northern Kurdish region is stable, which is seen as the gateway into the rest of Iraq. The Iraqi people, like the rest of the Middle East, enjoy shopping, which is why there is great consumer demand. At BTWShiells, we understand retail and therefore the importance of the right tenant mix to create a long-term sustainable mall."
Majid continued: "We are speaking to a number of internationally recognized retailers from Europe, the Middle East, and Turkey, and the overall feedback has been very positive. We can give retailers confidence when entering the country as BTWShiells adheres to strict internationally recognized property management standards, and we are also in the enviable position of being able to offer a pipeline of sites through our local Iraqi partner, the Diyar Group."
The Diyar Group is a large, privately owned family company with business activities in construction, aviation, banking, and retail, and has headquarters based in Erbil.
BTWShiells has over 30 years of retail experience with offices in London, Dubai, Belfast, and Erbil. They currently manage 40 shopping malls in the UK and Ireland, with a total portfolio value of $6.5 billion. Mane Mall is their first project in Iraq.
Diyar Retail is a joint venture between BTWShiells and the Diyar Group, which aims to develop a number of shopping malls across Iraq in cities to include Duhok, Suleimaniya, Kirkuk, Mosul, Basrah, Najaf, and Baghdad.
Another shopping complex, on a larger scale, is the Family Fun Mall, located on 100 M Road in Erbil. Part of an already popular theme park, the shopping center will have space for around 350 globally renowned brands.
Family Fun Mall will open in September this year, and includes the French hypermarket Carrefour, the world's second-largest hypermarket chain in terms of size and the world's second largest retail group in terms of revenue. It will be the first time Carrefour enters the Iraqi market. "It's a historic event when Carrefour will open here in Iraq," noted one executive from the Middle East franchise of Carrefour, the United Arab Emirates-based Majid Al Futtaim, talking on condition of anonymity to "The Kurdish Globe."
The prestigious shopping center, a project by Erbil-based Darin Company, will also feature an ice-rink, cinema complex, bowling alley, and other facilities. "We will become a different concept, one of more quality brands and more entertainment facilities than any other mall in Kurdistan Region or Iraq," said Rawand Hussain Ali, advertising manager at Darin Company.
The mall will be managed by the Turkish division of GLL, which manages 75 shopping centers around the world, including Turkey's largest. Family Fun Mall is the first venture for GLL in Iraq. Debuting for the first time in Iraq, globally renowned brands at Family Fun Mall will include Zara, a Spanish retailer, revealed Ali.
Opening this month is Sofya Mall on prestigious Gulan Road, close to the new hotels and housing projects under construction. Sofya Mall, according to its director, Fareed Tawfiq, has space for 90 stores on four floors. The 7,000-square-meter property will also feature two cafeterias and a games section for children. Most tenants at the mall will be locals, Turks, Americans, and Chinese, said Tawfiq.
Also owned by the same developers of Sofya Mall is Galerya Mall, only walking distance away from the Sofya Mall. The mall is slated for opening in September this year.
Opposite both malls, also on Gulan Road, construction is nearing completion on City Mall. The shopping complex will incorporate 210 shops, 15 food outlets, a hypermarket, among other businesses.
Located between English Village and the Italian City housing developments, Arina Shopping Mall, located on Gulan Road (opposite Sami Abdulrahman Park) is also under construction and is scheduled for opening in a few months. The shopping center will mainly cater for residents in the nearby area, and visitors staying in the five-star hotels currently under construction near the mall.
Other similar, large projects include Tablo Mall (located near Franso Hariri Stadium) and Mega Mall (located on the road to Salahaddin Road, in Shoresh Area).
By the end of 2010, more than a dozen shopping malls are expected to open in Erbil, already nicknamed the "shopping capital of Iraq" by retail experts and shoppers.
Shoppers and visitors in Erbil are exited with the opening of a large number of malls in the city. "We have more options and more global brands now," said Aveen Jaleel, 26, from Erbil. The "shopaholic," as she calls herself, is happy with the recent announcement of more shopping malls in her city.
"Since the opening of Majidi Mall late last year, we only have one all-brand shopping mall in the city. But with the addition of more malls, there will be more, and people will have more options and locations to choose from."