The role of malls

Online retailers are posting strong profits but the appeal of physical malls is enduring

 People stream through Town Square, the center of the newly opened Yas Mall in Abu Dhab. Silvia Razgova / The National
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Chances are that you have bought something online in the past few months. Online shopping portals such as Souq. com are posting record profits as more and more people embrace the convenience of shopping online. In the United States and Europe, online shopping commands more than 10 per cent of all retail shopping. Penetration is not as deep in the Middle East but the increasing profit margins of sites such as indicate that online shopping has finally come to the region.

Part of our reluctance to shop online is that physical malls occupy a unique space in society. Not only are malls the places where we get groceries and other goods but they are the places where we spend time. In the hot summer months, cool malls become our public spaces. We have coffee, go to restaurants and cinemas, meet friends and basically spend time in these spaces. There is even a trend to connect malls to attractions as with Yas Mall and Ferrari World. Online shopping will continue to grow but the role of our malls is deeper than just getting a good deal.