Complex Made Simple

Understanding GCC malls: who goes where?

The new research aims to understand patterns and habits of mall visitors to help brands make knowledgeable decisions about their positioning in shopping malls.

The GCC is regarded an irreplaceable strategic location and brands come here from around the world to put their finest products on display at the region’s numerous shopping malls.


Given this, it’s surprising that no one really understands the habits or patterns of consumers visiting these malls. This is especially important because, other than the retail stores, shopping malls in the GCC are also leisure destinations, thanks to their numerous restaurants, cinema theatres and other attractions.


A new study, titled “GCC Mall Mapping”, produced by Sapience Consultancy in partnership with AMEinfo’s parent company, Mediaquest, and independent consultant Nadine Touma, seeks to further understand customer patterns and acquire the necessary information for brands to make knowledgeable decisions about shopping malls.


“In my 12 years in the Gulf, I rarely saw much data to help us make informed decisions about malls. We only get the footfall, if we are lucky,” Nadine Touma told the audience when presenting some findings from the report for the first time at arab luxury world, a leading two-day conference on the business of luxury, organised by Mediaquest.


She explained that there is a serious gap in research conducted about malls’ purposes, characteristics and experiences. She also noted that virtually no information exists on the smaller, niche malls.


“So far, we’ve had one type of segmentation: big malls and the others,” Touma said.


However, this is about to change, as the new GCC Mall Mapping research, in its first edition, has already identified five mall categories and begun the process of understanding the characteristics that make these destinations unique.


Below are the five mall types identified in the report:



Regular malls that people go to and know and  love. These enjoy high levels of awareness, preference, and frequency.


In Dubai, favourite malls include The Dubai Mall, Mall Of the Emirates and Deira City Center. Abu Dhabi Marina, Abu Dhabi Mall, Wahda and Dalma malls are favourites in the capital of Abu Dhabi. Riyadh Gallery, Othaim, Nakheel and Panorama are the favourites in Riyadh; and Al Andalus, Salaam, Aziz and Red Sea malls are Jeddah’s favourites.


2. Regular

These malls have high awareness, a medium-to-high number of visits in the past year, medium preference, medium-to-high intention for people to visit it in the near future and a medium-to-high frequency of visits.


3. Community Malls

These malls attract a certain proportion of people and a particular type of clients. These are characterised by being located in a residential area and are mostly visited by people residing in that area.


4. Occasional Malls

These attract a good number of people, but only occasionally. They would have seen a medium number of visits over the past year, are low in preference, have medium-to-high levels of intention to visit in the near future, and an overall medium frequency of visits.


5. Secondary Malls

These have a medium-to-low awareness, low number of visits in the past year, low preference and low intention for people to visit in the near future, and a medium-to-high frequency of visits.


The research was produced after interviewing 1,000 mall visitors each in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, covering the two main cities in each country: Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the UAE. A total of 20 malls were prompted in Saudi Arabia and 30 in the UAE.


Respondents were chosen at random, but the sample was balanced in terms of monthly income and followed a certain quota of gender, age and nationality.