Shopping, Leisure Boosts GCC Retail Experience

Known as the shopping capital of the Middle East, Dubai is home to some of the world’s largest malls and a sophisticated retail ecosystem.

As PYMNTS recently reported, local brands are embracing innovation and offering a glimpse into the future of hybrid shopping experiences that combine elements of eCommerce with in-store retail.

Read more: Smart Retail Brands Drive Hybrid Shopping Experience in the UAE

But beyond hybrid shopping in the UAE, alternative retail destinations in Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are emerging onto the scene and providing a unique blend of shopping with entertainment and leisure to diversify the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region’s retail appeal.

Majid Al Futtaim Breaks Mold in Saudi, Oman Malls 

Last month, one of the Middle East’s biggest mall operators, Dubai-based Majid Al Futtaim, opened an immersive experience in the Riyadh Park Mall in Saudi Arabia in partnership with U.S. virtual reality (VR) company Dreamscape.

The new VR location is the second Dreamscape project opened in a Majid Al Futtaim mall following the firm’s regional debut at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai.

See also: VR Venture Gets Hollywood Backing

In fact, Majid Al Futtaim is increasingly cementing its presence in the Saudi Arabian retail market and is currently building what is expected to be the Kingdom’s largest mall, the Mall of Saudi, in Riyadh.

The new retail and leisure complex will feature a five-star hotel, 600 stores spread out over nearly 300,000 square meters of floor space, and a 40,000 square meter indoor ski slope and snow park.

Related: i2c, UAE Retailer Majid Al Futtaim Launch Payment, Rewards Solution

Majid Al Futtaim seems to be sticking to the same formula of integrating retail, leisure, entertainment and dining in other markets.

Another of the firm’s malls, the Mall of Oman — which celebrated its one-year anniversary last month — has also incorporated an indoor snow park alongside 15 cinema screens, the country’s first IMAX, an arcade and a children’s soft play area.

Learn more: PYMNTS GCC Series: Still in Its Infancy, Oman FinTech Hub Shows Huge Potential for Growth

The Omani capital of Muscat has further attracted a number of other international brands besides Majid Al Futtaim, including Emirati businesses looking to expand their regional footprint.

For example, the department store Jashanmal opened its first Omani location in May, and the Dubai-based Al-Futtaim Group opened the country’s first Ikea franchise in June.

See also: Oman’s Bank Muscat Debuts QR Code Payments

Qatari Retailers Prepare for World Cup

Ahead of the FIFA World Cup next month, Qatar’s retail sector has been preparing for the million-plus soccer fans expected to descend on the Arab country.

Related: PYMNTS GCC Series: Big Tech Firms Set Up Shop in Qatar

A key center of activity during the tournament will be the Doha Sports City complex, also known as the Aspire Zone, which is home to the Khalifa International Stadium and Doha’s iconic Villaggio Mall.

Last month, for example, a Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) stall located in the Villagio Mall was signing up consumers for the bank’s limited edition FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Visa cards and inviting shoppers to play an immersive VR soccer game.

Holders of QIB or Qatar National Bank Visa cards have also been able to win tickets to World Cup matches in another initiative running in Villagio Mall.

Read more: QNB Reveals New Payment Services in Qatar

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New PYMNTS Study: How Consumers Use Digital Banks

A PYMNTS survey of 2,124 US consumers shows that while two-thirds of consumers have used FinTechs for some aspect of banking services, just 9.3% call them their primary bank.

We’re always on the lookout for opportunities to partner with innovators and disruptors.

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