Winning the right to host the World Expo 2020 would provide a major boost for the retail sector in Dubai if its bid is successful, according to speakers at the Recon retail conference held in Dubai today.

The Expo, which was attended by more than 73 million people when it was last held in 2010 in Shanghai, provides a unique opportunity for the city and retailers to build their profile, speakers said.

“As the customers come in from all over the world it will increase the demand for retail, so we are all going to flourish from it,” said Dimitri Vazelakis, executive managing director, shopping malls, Majid Al-Futtaim Properties (MAF Properties). “It is going to increase the retail market, and as a result we are expanding our retail centres, such as the Mall of the Emirates, and we are also looking at opening some new centres in the Dubai area, which we will announce shortly,’ he said.

In addition to opening new shops and retail centres, retailers are also likely to develop some innovative products to capitalise on the popularity of the event, speakers said.  

“There are many opportunities in product merchandising and licensing,” said Ishwar Chugani, managing director of Giordano Middle East. “Even for the UAE National Day [2 December], many retailers have come up with special merchandise based on that day, so this is something that could be done related to the Expo,” he said.

However, Chugani cautions developers who would be keen to build a new mall if Dubai is selected to host the event. “Does Dubai need more malls? Yes, but you have to be different. In certain areas there is no more room. So when you go into it you need to have an objective. You need to be unique. If you do your homework and do not build a mall just to collect rent, maybe there could be room for you,” he said.

He also believes Dubai must ensure that attention is also paid to the city, and not just the event. “One thing we shouldn’t do is focus too much on the expo once we get it. Focus on Dubai as a city. Get the people to come in and spread them around the city so that everybody benefits,” he said.

“It’s already happening now, where people’s shopping habits are changing, and you see everybody [shop] at just one [mall] and all the other malls get [negatively] affected. The challenge is how you spread the wealth when people come in,” he said.

Destination Dubai 2020
On 28-29 January 2014, MEED will hold its Destination Dubai 2020 event. The two-day conference will bring together the emirate’s key government-related entities and stakeholders to discuss their respective growth plans and outline Dubai’s ongoing expansion to 2020 and beyond. For the very latest information regarding this event, please visit www.destinationdubai2020.com