Qatar will have at least six new hyper and supermarkets in the next few months, according to sources.
Despite the global economic crisis, the retail market in the Gulf region, especially in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, has witnessed tremendous growth in the last one year.
The sources attributed this to the massive inflow of manpower in the last two years, which they added would lead to further growth of the retail markets.
They believe there are still many areas in the retail sector waiting to be explored.
“Though it is true that the global crisis has slowed down the economic growth of every country, the retail market in the Gulf is still vibrant,” said the business development manager of a retailing chain, headquartered in the United Arab Emirates.
He felt the time is now ideal to make investments in the retail sector as the costs of setting up new businesses have come down in the last one year. He said the gradual fall in rents and the government’s wholehearted backing for businesses have boosted the confidence of entrepreneurs.
The 130,000sq ft Quality Hypermarket on Salwa Road is one such facility getting ready for commercial operations. The hypermarket, according to its promoters, has many unique features. It is the only such facility in the area with provision for basement parking. The hypermarket will have at least 20 jewellery outlets.
“Our hypermarket will also have food courts, with at least half-a-dozen Asian, Arab, European and continental eateries already agreeing to set up shop,” said its managing director Shamsudheen Olakara.
The company has prepared an elaborate week-long cultural festival, featuring Arab, Asian and African and also possibly South American items as part of the opening of the new hypermarket.
The company also plans to open another equally large hypermarket in Al Gharaffa next year, Olakara added.
Safari Hypermarket, which started operations in 2005, is adding a major mall to its two existing outlets at Barwa’s Commercial area in Abu Hamour.
“Our hypermarket will perhaps be one of the largest in the GCC, with a commercial space of more than 220,000 sq ft,” said an official. It is expected to be ready by October.
The official said the decision on each of the new investments was made after elaborate studies and extensive market research. He said Qatar has witnessed a population explosion since 2002 and the number of its residents quadrupled in less than five years. However, the retail sector has not seen a similar growth, he said.
“The requirements of the population are rising but the growth in the number of business establishments has been minimal,” he said.
The UAE-headquartered Emke Group, which runs the LuLu Hypermarket and Lulu Center, will open its third outlet in Doha in less than a month. The 200,000sq ft hypermarket will have some surprises, according to the group’s regional director Mohamed Althaf.
The group is also planning to open next year a mall at Al Khor, said to be the largest of its kind in the country, spread over 340,000sq ft. Besides multiplexes and food courts, the mall will have entertainment and playing areas for children, according to the LuLu management.
The hypermarket culture is spreading to Doha’s suburbs too. The Grand Hypermarket in Khartiyat, being developed by a local business group, is set to open in October. The group is also planning a similar venture in Rayyan.
In Shamal, another business group is launching a hypermarket hoping to take advantage of a rise in the area’s population with the construction of the Qatar-Bahrain causeway. The promoters recently announced in Doha that they expected about 20,000 people to arrive in the area when the causeway construction begins.
However, Wakrah has not kept pace with other towns in this aspect. The high land costs and the absence of proper buildings to house hypermarkets are cited as the main hurdles in setting up new businesses in Wakrah.
“Once these issues are resolved, Wakrah will probably become one of the most sought-after places to start hypermarkets in Qatar,” said Olakara.
The Emke group is planning to open an outlet in the area shortly, sources said.
According to Awad, a market researcher specialising in the retail segment, the demand for essential goods in Qatar grew by more than 25% in just one year. “It is bound to record similar growth in the coming years too,” he said. “The purchasing power of many people may have been hit in the wake of the global economic turmoil, but the increase in the number of people coming to Qatar has pushed up the markets remarkably in the last one year,” he said.
The increased activity of suppliers in Al Khor and its suburbs is a clear example of this. The arrival of more manpower in Ras Laffan has contributed to the growth of markets there and many items, including cheaper electronic items are sold more in the township than even in Doha.
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