Saudi malls must embrace tech, says retail summit chairman


Panos Linardos, chairman of the Retail Leaders Circle Mena summit has emphasised that malls in Saudi Arabia must adopt new technologies in order to stay relevant and attract more customers.

“Saudi’s existing malls should be preparing now for the hyper-competitive landscape that these next-generation developments will usher in. Changing consumer preferences and the continued rise of e-commerce make it imperative for malls to integrate digital technologies, immersive experiences and rich entertainment offers to their mix,” Mr Linardos said in a statement.

The summit, which acts as a forum for the Mena retail sector, takes place in Riyadh next month. Policymakers and thought leaders will gather on March 7 and 8 to discuss how increased investment can drive positive change in the industry.

The integration of digital experiences with physical stores in the Kingdom will be a central theme at the 9th edition of the summit.

The statement added that some retailers in the country are already adapting technology for their brick-and-mortar businesses. For example, Cenomi Centres, part of the Fawaz Alhokair Group, is launching its e-commerce platform this year.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia will get more malls in the next few years, with big retailers already developing them.

Majid Al Futtaim Group’s Mall of Saudi are bringing new integrated lifestyle options to the country. Upon completion, the Mall of Saudi will feature around 700 retail units, 100 food and bevarage outlets, 182,000 square metres of office space, 1,800 homes, 2,000 hotel keys and 29,700 square metres of leisure and entertainment.

The Avenues in Riyadh, a project being developed on an area of 1.8 million square metres by Shomoul holding, a joint venture between Mabanee Company of Kuwait, Al Fozan Holding, and Alshaya Group, is expected to become one of the largest commercial malls in the Middle East with a gross leasable area of 400,000 square metres.

“Saudi Arabia’s evolving retail sector is a huge opportunity for domestic and international investors. However, the nation’s sophisticated and demanding consumers make it imperative for existing retailers to reimagine and upgrade their offer to avoid the risk of obsolescence,” added Mr Linardos.

“The ninth Retail Leaders Circle significantly supports the kingdom’s efforts to build a new model of extraordinary retail and commerce experiences within a digital, inclusive and sustainable ecosystem,” he concluded.