While digital platforms now play a vital role in retailing, an industry expert said malls and shopping centres still provide unique experiences and offerings that many residents and visitors look for.
“Online platforms will continue to hold a place in this world with the increasing demands on people’s time, but we firmly believe that malls such as Doha Festival City (DHFC) will remain a central part of the community for many years to come,” DHFC general manager Robert Hall told Gulf Times.
Phase 2 of the gradual lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, which began on July 1, includes the reopening of all retail outlets in malls and commercial centres. Accordingly, DHFC announced the reopening of all retail outlets there amid the observance of a host of precautionary measures.
Hall said the mall has received a positive response and support from shoppers to its ‘welcome back’ announcements, as well as for following stringent health and safety measures throughout its premises.
“E-commerce has its place in our modern society, but nothing replaces the experience of beautiful stores, viewing products and significant brand ranges at ease and in the space that Festival City provides,” he said.
“Retailers will certainly improve their website design and usability, but we still look forward to welcoming our visitors, if only for a coffee, or keeping fit with a walk around our extensive mall space,” Hall said.
Besides stores reopening, he announced that DHFC will also open new shops in the coming months with both first-to-market brands and extended store offers.
Hall expressed confidence that Qatar’s retail sector will witness continuous growth with the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022, the ongoing substantial infrastructure work to support this event, and in continuing to meet the original timescales.
“Qatar enjoys a strong retail market and therefore the demand for consumer goods remains. Our customers appreciate the variety of international brands in Festival City and a competitive pricing policy to match consumer needs,” he said.
About the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on consumer spending, which focused more on groceries and home entertainment, Hall said they witnessed “a very short-term increase due to customers being temporarily restricted in terms of choice with malls closed and a necessity for people to stay indoors and to socially distance”.
“We expect some of these changes to remain, but at a lesser degree.”
Consumers might choose to rely more on home delivery and online ordering, and some store brands will work to improve their online footprint through improvements in website design and functionality, according to Hall.
“Qatar is very well-positioned for home delivery with numerous existing structures to support, but ordering from international suppliers still may incur delays due to supply disruptions,” he said.
About the future of Qatar’s retail industry, which has witnessed a surge in the use of online platforms during the Covid-19 outbreak, he noted that the country has a history as a trading nation, from its port to souqs and modern retail destinations such as DHFC.
“We do not envision a long-term shift in shoppers’ behaviour as these retail destinations in Doha not only provide a place to purchase goods, but also provide a space for people to come together, share experiences and new memories,” Hall said.
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