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Omanis buy into Gulf shopping mall culture

Shopping Mall, Shop, Person Supplied
Oman's National Tourism Strategy 2040 aims to attract 11.7m domestic and international tourists, adding impetus to the retail sector
  • New Muscat mall aims to meet retail demand among tourists and locals
  • Smaller malls to feel increased competition
  • Majid Al Futtaim and other GCC operators expanding in sultanate 

Middle East mall operator Majid Al Futtaim this month added over 260 international and local outlets to the retail landscape of Oman.

The opening of the OR288 million ($749 million) Mall of Oman in Muscat is a sign of the Gulf state’s ongoing switch from standalone units to shopping malls.

It is Majid Al Futtaim’s fifth and largest shopping and entertainment destination in the sultanate.

Retail sales in Oman are forecast to grow by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.1 percent between 2022 and 2026 – above the GCC average of 5.7 percent over the forecasted period.

The growth is expected to be driven by increased tourism, a rise in GDP per capita and the “penetration of organised retail stores”, according to a report from Alpen Capital.

Oman is likely to experience the highest population growth across the GCC at a CAGR of 3.2 percent through to 2026, the report added.

The report says the growth of shopping malls in Oman is being fuelled by increased consumer interest in new lifestyle experiences, and demand from global and regional brands who are looking to further establish their presence and broaden their portfolio to gain market share.

Mall of Oman has international brands including a Carrefour Hypermarket and Abercrombie & Fitch in addition to high-end brands by the Landmark Group, Apparel Group and Al Shamsi Group.

Ritesh Mohan, director of global sales at UAE beauty name Liht Organics and founder of the retail blog, said with Majid Al Futtaim joining other pan-GCC retail operators in Oman competition is “fierce and malls are fighting for a small piece of the market.”

He added: “Many new projects are springing up in cities such as Sohar and Nizwa as well as Muscat, supported by the government’s efforts in moving towards expansion of the retail sector. 

“The opening of Mall of Oman in Muscat has definitely affected other malls. Many anchor store operators like Alshaya Group, Magic Planet and other prominent groups vacated their stores in smaller city centres like Qurum City Center at the time of Mall of Oman opening.”

Oman's National Tourism Strategy 2040 aims to attract 11.7m tourists, adding impetus to the retail sector.
Mall of Oman is Majid Al Futtaim’s fifth and largest shopping and entertainment destination in the sultanate

Retail is among the sectors contributing towards Oman’s Vision 2040 strategy to diversify the sultanate’s economy away from a dependence on hydrocarbons.

Its National Tourism Strategy 2040 is aiming to attract 11.7 million domestic and international tourists, which will add further impetus to the retail sector. 

According to statistics from Skyscanner, travel searches for Oman among GCC residents increased 231 percent in the recent half term holiday period.

Tara Sillery, owner of PR Passion, which works with entities in the public and private sector in Oman, said the country’s retail sector is driven by spending power and tourism, which is creating more demand for the shopping mall culture so prevalent among the sultanate’s Gulf neighbours.

“In the past two years, and specifically post Covid, malls have noticed a higher footfall, hence the attraction for other brands to enter the market,” she said.

“Oman is a low key country when it comes to spending power and high end labels.

“Omanis tend to be less label obsessed than counterparts in other GCC states, but they still appreciate quality and luxury.

“They’re in fact producers of some of the region’s most exclusive high-end scents and local fashion brands.”