The phenomenal growth of mega hypermarkets all across the Sultanate, has completely transformed the retail landscape and is all set to galvanise the jobs sector as well as the economy
A massive surge in expansion and growth of shopping malls, hypermarkets and supermarkets is fast changing the dynamics of the retail sector across the Sultanate. This has consequently opened up in a big way the job market for Omani youth.
The Gulf region’s retail giants are looking at Oman as a potential growth market for their expansion programmes of supermarkets. Accordingly, the retail sector is attracting huge investments from major foreign retail chains, especially from neighbouring United Arab Emirates (UAE), and home-grown businessmen.
This is considered as a vote of confidence in the growth of the retail sector and the Sultanate’s economy, despite a slackness in sales in the last couple of years.
Vital Driving Forces
Increasing population and international tourist arrivals have been the vital driving forces of the retail market in Oman. A high composition of young and working class has led to a shift in consumer preferences towards international foods and western products.
This is further supported by a growth in household purchasing power over the years on account of the economic diversification and government-mandated pay hikes for nationals.The country’s retail landscape is concentrated in the hands of standalone retail outlets and has several regional and international retailers.
As consumers look for a wholesome shopping experience combined with entertainment, the retail market in the country is transforming to accommodate large leisure shopping complexes. Supply of retail space has gained steam in the last two years, which has seen the addition of large shopping centers like Avenues Mall, Oasis Mall and Panorama Mall, among others.
The organised malls and standalone retail outlets are largely concentrated in Muscat. There are many retail projects underway, including Palm Mall Muscat, Mall of Oman and some community centres.
Major retail giants, including Majid Al Futtaim, Al Jarwani group (Palm Mall) and Landmark group, are all going ahead with their multi-million expansion plans in line with their growth strategy.
These groups are building malls, hypermarkets and supermarkets not only in Muscat, but also in several cities across the country.
Since the neighbouring United Arab Emirates is more or less saturated, the major chains are looking at countries like Oman to expand their malls and hypermarket network. The vast area and scattered population, especially in interior towns, also offers an opportunity for these business houses to invest in Oman.
The UAE-based Majid Al Futtaim Properties, the leading shopping mall, retail and leisure pioneer across the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, started construction works of Mall of Oman, set to be the Sultanate’s flagship destination for retail, leisure and entertainment.
On completion in 2020, the super-regional mall will feature 350 outlets in a 137,000-square-meter retail space. It will also feature several ‘firsts’ including Oman’s largest snow-park, with a 8,000-square meter play area, and a Little Explorers edu-tainment centre.
Mall of Oman, a super-regional mall that is part of a wider OMR515 million investment in Oman, will also include the Sultanate’s first largest VOX Cinemas and Magic Planet - the leading family entertainment centre in the region.
The country’s new shopping and entertainment destination is expected to generate 1,500 jobs for its construction and a further 3,500 jobs once in operation and will enhance the Sultanate’s retail and entertainment offering for both residents and tourists.
In another move, Majid Al Futtaim recently opened its first community mall in Oman – My City Centre Sur. With an investment of OMR15.2 million, the mall in Sur features more than 50 retail outlets spread across 16,500 square meters and 484 parking spaces.
Located in one of Oman’s growing coastal cities in the eastern province, My City Centre Sur is a key destination for both residents and the increasing number of tourists visiting nearby attractions.
It features a Carrefour hypermarket, a Magic Planet family entertainment centre and other stores in fashion, jewellery, and cosmetics, including Centrepoint, Max Fashion, Pure Gold, Kryolan, and the Body Shop. Dining options include Mersal, Razmazaan, Gloria Jeans Cafe, and food court choices. My City Centre Sur will create more than 4,000 direct and indirect job opportunities in the surrounding area.
The mall is part of Majid Al Futtaim’s strategy to increase its total investment in Oman to OMR705 million by 2020, which includes upcoming destinations City Centre Sohar and Mall of Oman.
Likewise, City Centre Sohar will include 130 stores, a Carrefour hypermarket and a nine-screen Vox Cinema as well as dining and entertainment venues across 40,000 square meters of leasable space. Sohar, a port city and a major industrial hub, has seen substantial economic activity in recent years.
Palm Mall, which has been renamed as Mall of Muscat, will be ready in the third quarter of 2018, with 75 per cent of the work having been completed.
The project will include VOX cinema, Lulu Hypermark, a four-star hotel and service apartments and an amphitheatre. Once completed, it will generate 12,000 jobs for the local community.
The Palm Mall Muscat is located in Mabella, 14 kilometres away from the Seeb International Airport. The Oman Aquarium, first and largest of its kind in Oman and snow village, which will be built in original snow, are some of the attractions of the mall, which makes it different from others.
The UAE-based Landmark Group is not an exception. The group has announced expansion of Oasis Mall into Sohar and Salalah.
With over seven malls across the GCC and another four in the pipeline, Oasis Mall, the leading neighbourhood shopping destination in the region, is set to open by the end of 2018 in Sohar and Salalah.
Built over a combined area of 33,000 square metres in Sohar and 35,000 square metres in Salalah, the malls are supported by Landmark Group’s vast history of creating innovative businesses, and utilising rich experience and expertise.
Oasis Mall will enhance its capabilities and cement its position as the market leader across the retail sector as a leisure and entertainment destination which will include over 90 outlets in Sohar and 43 outlets in Salalah.
Al Araimi Boulevard in Al Khoud, the largest family entertainment centre coming up in two floors spread over 147,200 square metres, is scheduled to open for the public in September 2018.
Developed by the home-grown Al Raid Group in cooperation with Design International, AEB ASSAF and Kaosys, the mall has a leasable area of 70,500 sq meters and will have an estimated cost of OMR62 million. It will be Oman’s largest family entertainment centre with 250 shops, ten modern cinema halls, 20 diversified restaurants and 3,000 car parking space.
The boulevard will offer a 6,000 square meters of entertainment area with a large interactive learning area, sitting alongside space for live shows and exciting performances.
Carrefour will be the anchor hyper market at Al Araimi Boulevard. Carrefour will provide an unmatched shopping experience for the strong and growing population in Al Seeb and Al Khoud.
Lulu Group has already opened several outlets in far off places to capture the interior regions, including Mabela and Suwaiq.
With all these major developments, a significant volume of new retail space is set to enter the market over the next five years, across a mix of both mall-based and master plan developments. As retail sector has a lot of employment potential, the growth of the sector could partially address the unemployment issue among Omani youth.