Dubai malls on alert for 24-hour shopping

Store managers are counting their staff to gauge their ability to cope with 24-hour opening and an extended Eid shopping festival.

Managers of small outlets in malls say the decision will strain current staffing levels if applied across the board.
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DUBAI // Store managers were counting their staff yesterday to gauge their ability to cope with 24-hour opening and an extended Eid shopping festival.

"It's going to be a headache, but we will find a way," said Barry Martin, general manager of the Shake Shack restaurant in Mall of the Emirates.

The Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, announced on Saturday that shopping malls would be open 24 hours and the Eid in Dubai shopping festival extended from its usual four days. The festival is expected to last from October 18-28, with Eid Al Adha itself on October 26.

"We welcome our brothers and sisters from the Gulf region and across the world to experience the hospitality and unique cultural experiences that Dubai will offer this Eid," Sheikh Mohammed said.

Sana Toukan, regional research manager at Euromonitor, said the decision could prove popular with GCC nationals.

"Given the fact that the local population and tourists from neighbouring Gulf states usually prefer shopping at night, as their mall visits tend to be after 10pm, the extended opening hours are expected to translate into higher sales across the board," Ms Toukan said.

However, managers of small outlets in malls said the decision would strain current staffing levels if applied across the board.

Retail analyst Matthew Jay, a retail analyst at CB Richard Ellis, said he was surprised at the decision.

"It's going to require extra staffing and is probably going to be logistically quite tough," he said.

"I'm not sure how busy shopping malls are during Eid either, it seems to be a relatively normal period."

Mr Martin of Shake Shack met mall owners yesterday morning and reached an agreement on opening hours.

His restaurant will open 24 hours on Thursdays and Fridays from October 18 to November 2.

"We won't be able to hire any additional staff, because it's a two-month process to hire new people. We will have to manage with our existing employees," he said.

"It's not going to be easy, but we'll work out a way."

It is not clear whether the arrangement is unique to the shop or will be applied across the entire mall.

Bruce Gajo, assistant manager at Chop Chop restaurant, also in Mall of the Emirates, said yesterday morning he wasn't aware of any arrangement.

"It's very unusual," he said. "We haven't done this before, and I'm not sure if we would be prepared for it. We haven't received any memo from the mall management yet."

Richard Adams, a retail consultant at Acuity Middle East, said the impact of the challenge would depend on the capability of the stores.

"Mid-range fashion retailers often have many sales associates," he said. "For them, this development won't necessarily be a challenge. It's the niche outlets, like high-end luxury retailers, who may find this more difficult to deal with."