Big chains coming to Palm's Golden Mile

"Initial commitments" from six companies, including Waitrose, Pinkberry and Boots to open in major Palm Jumeirah retail hub set to debut next year.

United Arab Emirates - Dubai - August 17, 2010.

BUSINESS: Retail space inside the Golden Mile development on the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai sits empty on Tuesday, August 17, 2010.  Amy Leang/The National

Tens of thousands of residents of the exclusive Palm Jumeirah will be spared the chore of travelling miles for their weekly shopping when the first big stores begin opening on its Golden Mile in June next year. The joint venture behind the 10-building project announced this week that it had "initial retailer commitments" from six companies, including the supermarket chain Waitrose, the yoghurt retailer Pinkberry and Boots Pharmacy.

They are expected to begin operating in the complex's 36,000 square metres of retail space near the end of the second quarter next year. Those commitments would take up about 20 per cent of the total space available, said Joe Sita, the president of IFA Hotel Investments. "There is a dearth of any retail on Palm Jumeirah and a fairly captive market there between the apartments on the trunk and the villas on the frond," Mr Sita said. "We see a huge demand for a good retail precinct."

Waitrose will take over a 1,140 sq metre space, becoming the first grocery store on the artificial island. More than 700 of the 860 apartments in the Golden Mile buildings have been handed over to buyers, according to Golden Mile - a company owned by IFA Hotels & Resorts and Istithmar World. Mr Sita's company is in charge of asset management of the Golden Mile. The announcement of early commitments to the project comes as a report from the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry showed growth for Dubai's retail sector.

Sales rose 17 per cent during this year's Dubai Summer Surprises festival, with revenues at 23 shoping malls reaching Dh1.49bn (US$406m). Revenues were Dh1.27bn in 2008, when the economy was peaking after a five-year boom. "The purchasing power of the UAE's expatriate residents was the fundamental source of the success of the retail sector," the report said. Average household consumption was $14,400.

"Whilst a tightening in credit conditions, decrease in job security, an increase in consumer savings rates and a fall in tourist visitors in the UAE since the onset of the economic slowdown has led to a challenging retail market, the outlook remains upbeat," the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry said. The arrival of a metro system has helped improve access to some retail areas, the report said. The Middle East Council of Shopping Centres is predicting a 3.6 per cent growth in retail sales this year.

A predicted influx of tourists in the latter half of the year, an easing of credit conditions and an increase in disposable income "will all encourage cash flow within the retail sector", the report said. Retail spaces in the Golden Mile will mostly be indoors, but during the cooler months restaurants will offer patio service. Mr Sita, of IFA Hotel Investments, said projects on the Palm Jumeirah might have slowed but were still coming online in stages. The combination of hotel visitors and residents should give the island a thriving population in the tens of thousands, he said.

"At the moment, we are still early days," he said. "But as the number of residents and visitors increase, retail is going to become very important."