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Dubai Mall shoppers up 20% on pre-Covid levels, says Alabbar

Dubai Mall owner Mohamed Alabbar attended the opening of Peet's Coffee flagship at the mall in his capacity as chairman of Americana, franchisee of the coffee chain Creative Commons/L Constantino
Dubai Mall owner Mohamed Alabbar attended the opening of Peet's Coffee at the mall in his capacity as chairman of Americana, franchisee of the coffee chain
  • Emaar Properties chair celebrates revival
  • Peet’s Coffee launches flagship store
  • Americana Restaurants open to further franchising opportunities

Visitor numbers at the Dubai Mall are a fifth higher than they were before the coronavirus pandemic, said Mohamed Alabbar, founder and chairman of Emaar Properties, the developer of both the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa.

Alabbar said economic recovery from the pandemic is not only complete, but has exceeded 2019 figures. Footfall at the mall, the Gulf’s largest shopping development, was 20 percent up on those from three years ago.

“We cannot thank enough our partners, our retailers, for the amazing work they do,” Alabbar said at the launch of the GCC’s flagship outlet of Peet’s Coffee in Dubai Mall.

Among many business interests, Alabbar is chairman of Americana Restaurants, one of the largest multi-brand restaurant operators in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), which last year signed a franchise agreement with Peet’s Coffee. 

“Our portfolio was missing lifestyle and coffee is lifestyle,” said Alabbar. “We were looking for a coffee company that makes the best coffee in the world and these guys at Peet’s are really serious and passionate about their stores, about their quality. They’re passionate about responsible purchasing. They’re methodical in what they do.”

He added: “I’m very picky about coffee. I don’t like coffee that tastes like water. The competition has this water thing they call coffee.”

Mena’s branded coffee shops market witnessed growth of 10.5 percent to 8,874 outlets between 2021-2022. World Coffee Portal forecasts this will reach 11,840 outlets in 2027, representing five-year growth of 5.9 percent.

Cup, Disposable Cup, Beverage
Peet’s Coffee opened in Dubai Mall following Americana Restaurants’ franchise agreement with the US coffee chain

Alabbar said it is an industry that is looking at “double-digit growth” and revealed expansion plans for the UAE and wider region, with tentative plans to have more than 30 outlets by the end of this year.

“The numbers are encouraging but we have to be careful, this is just an opening,” he said. “We must see the customers’ reaction and see how it goes, but we know very well this industry is growing.

“Americana has so much financial power, people power, regional power and passion and this is just an amazing fit.”

Americana Restaurants raised $1.8 billion in an initial public offering and a subsequent dual listing in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh in December.

The company was founded in Kuwait in 1964 and operates 1,800 restaurants across the region including franchises for KFC, Pizza Hut, Hardee’s and Krispy Creme.

Alabbar added that similar franchising opportunities to the Peet’s Coffee deal could be explored in the future. “We’re searching all the time for what’s up and coming,” he said.

“Consumer taste is always changing and I think we need to be smart enough to anticipate that.”

Eric Lauterbach, US president of Peet’s Coffee, described Dubai Mall as a “terrific location” to launch the brand in the GCC. “We’ve long believed our great coffee should be global. We’ve proved that in China and we’re very excited to be here,” he said.

Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of Emaar Properties. Picture: Reuters/Azad Lashkari

Who is Mohamed Alabbar?

Mohamed Alabbar is one of the leading businessmen behind Dubai’s economic growth, with interests spanning fashion, property, leisure and commodities.

His company, Emaar Properties, which established Dubai’s Burj Khalifa as well as the Dubai Mall, has a presence in more than 80 countries and focuses on developing prime real estate locations in the luxury and hospitality sector. 

He is also founder and owner of Alabbar Enterprises, a company that operates and invests in businesses in the Middle East, South East Asia and Africa, with a focus on luxury, fashion, retail and e-commerce.

On top of that he is co-founder of Noon.com, an e-commerce company, and the chairman of Americana Restaurants.

He led two investor groups in buying a combined 16.45 percent stake in Dubai-based courier Aramex, part of a plan to build an e-commerce platform across the Arab world.

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