Known as the shopping capital of the Middle East, Dubai is home to some of the largest malls in the world 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 e-commerce with in-store retail.
Read more: Smart Retail Brands Boost Hybrid Shopping Experience in UAE
But beyond hybrid shopping in the United Arab Emirates, alternative retail destinations in Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are emerging on the scene and offering a unique blend of shopping with entertainment and leisure to diversify the commercial appeal of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region.
Majid Al Futtaim breaks the mold in Saudi and Omani malls
Last month, one of the largest mall operators in the Middle East, Dubai-based Majid Al Futtaim, opened an immersive experience at Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh Park Mall in partnership with American virtual reality company ( VR) Dreamscape.
The new VR location is the second Dreamscape project to open at a Majid Al Futtaim mall following the company’s regional debut at Mall of the Emirates in Dubai.
See also: VR Venture gets Hollywood backing
In fact, Majid Al Futtaim is increasingly consolidating its presence in the Saudi retail market and is building what is expected to be the Kingdom’s largest mall, the Mall of Saudi, in Riyadh.
The new shopping and leisure complex will include a five-star hotel, 600 stores spread over almost 300,000 square meters of floor space, as well as an indoor ski slope and a 40,000 square meter snowpark.
Related: i2c and UAE retailer Majid Al Futtaim launch payment and rewards solution
Majid Al Futtaim seems to be sticking to the same formula of integrating retail, leisure, entertainment and catering into other markets.
Another of the company’s malls, the Mall of Oman – which celebrated its first anniversary last month – has also incorporated an indoor snow park alongside 15 cinema screens, the country’s first IMAX, an arcade and a playground for children.
Learn more: PYMNTS GCC Series: Still in its infancy, Oman’s FinTech hub has huge potential for growth
The Omani capital of Muscat has further attracted a number of other international brands in addition to Majid Al Futtaim, including Emirati companies looking to expand their regional footprint.
For example, department store Jashanmal opened its first Omani store in May, and Dubai-based Al-Futtaim Group opened the country’s first Ikea franchise in June.
See also: Bank of Oman Muscat launches QR code payments
Qatari retailers prepare for the World Cup
Ahead of the FIFA World Cup next month, Qatar’s retail sector has been gearing up for the more than one million football fans who are expected to descend on the Arab country.
Related: PYMNTS GCC Series: Big Tech Companies Set Up in Qatar
A key hub of activity during the tournament will be the Doha Sports City complex, also known as the Aspire Zone, home to Khalifa International Stadium and Doha’s iconic Villaggio Mall.
Last month, for example, a Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) booth in the Villagio shopping mall registered consumers for the bank’s limited-edition FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Visa cards and invited shoppers to play an immersive football game in virtual reality.
QIB or Qatar National Bank Visa cardholders were also able to win tickets to World Cup matches in another initiative taking place at the Villagio Mall.
Read more: QNB unveils new payment services in Qatar
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