Malls of the UAE, part 3: Yas Mall a growing retail palace

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Yas Mall celebrated its first year anniversary on November 19. It was the first super regional mall to open in Abu Dhabi as a serious competitor to the big boys up the road in Dubai – Mall of the Emirates and The Dubai Mall. As soon as it opened, Aldar, its developer, became the biggest owner and operator of retail space in the capital.

Built on Yas Island, it has more than 370 stores and 60 food and beverage outlets, with more than 10,000 covered car parking slots. The mall is a destination that could be said to be ahead of its time, as some of the developments on Yas Island have been slow in fulfilment. This has in turn slowed the footfall in the retail space.

Yas Mall is at the heart of the entertainment offering on Yas Island, close to the Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Links and Yas Viceroy, so it is doubtful you will ever forget where you are. It has a 20-screen cinema, kids’ edutainment zones and a great esplanade of F&B offerings on the “Cascade” – an outdoor decked area overlooking a terrace of fountains and a direct tunnel link to Ferrari World.

Tracking footfall

Yas Mall is fully leased, according to Aldar. It has recently added some unique attractions with the Chaloub Group, one of the region’s biggest retailing operations, at the start of November, opening a new concept – Tryano.

A multi-level 200,000 square foot department store, it may look more like an Ibiza nightclub with brilliant white walls and flooring and chrome finishing, but it stocks some of the biggest brands in the world, from Louboutin to Mulberry, along with a French restaurant .

Tryano sits well in the beautifully outfitted concourses and thoroughfares of the mall.

Yas Mall has spared little expense, with low leather couches sprinkled throughout for weary shoppers to ease their aching feet. The jazz music played throughout the mall adds that touch of enigmatic class that competitors can only aspire to. “Thursday night and Friday are very busy, but it is a quiet place to work generally. The weeks are long working here,” said a kiosk sales assistant.

An analyst’s view

Matthew Green, the head of research and consultancy at the property consultant CBRE, believes all malls need time to gain traction, and Yas will become the mall it aspires to be as Abu Dhabi develops.

“It is a destination mall without all the infrastructure, presently,” he says. “Dubai Mall took two years to gain any real footfall, and that was sitting at the bottom of the Burj Khalifa. Local shoppers have to understand a mall, where to shop and where to park, before they use it regularly, and as for tourists, when the Midfield Terminal Complex at the airport is completed and more visitors come through the capital, Yas Mall will feel the benefit.”

The outlook

Yas Island and the neighbouring of Al Reef are still to be fully developed as residential neighbourhoods, which has inhibited the traffic at Yas Mall. Aldar has recently announced another 1,000 villas at West Yas and a new apartment development called Mayan, so the momentum is slowly growing, which will help the mall’s ambience. The mall itself is a bright, modern retail palace that could grace any capital. However, with many smaller malls between it and the main population on the island, the draw for bringing people over the bridges is tough.

Any hidden gems?

What could remain hidden in a bright, airy mall only opened 53 weeks ago? Just like many things, you can find them when you are not looking. If you enjoy football and eating, then I’ve found the perfect spot for you. Hidden on the second floor of the Champions League Experience store is a 100-seat terraced restaurant that faces a 200 inch screen – it’s called Stadium for good reason. The eatery only stays open for showing big football games if there has been a booking for a minimum of 10 people. For the recent Real Madrid vs Barcelona game there wasn’t a spare seat in the house.

In conclusion

Yas Mall is the right mall at not quite the right time. But things will likely change. One is happy to window shop, but the lack of other customers made me feel slightly self conscious. It’s definitely worth a visit and if I lived in the capital it would become my mall of choice for the masses of parking, hassle-free shopping and the number of F&B outlets on offer.