DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The Middle East is getting the world's first Macy's department store outside the United States, and just for good measure, its second Bloomingdale's too.
Property developer Gulf Related and Dubai-based retail conglomerate Al Tayer Group said on Tuesday that they plan to open both stores in a new shopping center being built in the United Arab Emirates capital, Abu Dhabi.
The mall, known as Al Maryah Central, is expected to cost about $1 billion to build and should open in spring 2018. It will be located next to an existing shopping mall known as The Galleria on al-Maryah island, a rapidly developing area just across the water from Abu Dhabi's central business district.
Abu Dhabi is the largest and richest of the seven sheikdoms that make up the Emirates. It controls the bulk of the OPEC country's oil wealth and is home to one of the world's largest sovereign wealth funds.
The nearby Emirati city of Dubai already boasts the first overseas branch of Bloomingdale's. That outpost opened in 2010 in the vast Dubai Mall, one of the biggest shopping centers anywhere. It sits at the base of the world's tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa.
Both cities are home to a minority of often wealthy locals, and large numbers of professional expatriates and migrant workers. Abu Dhabi has been working to expand its tourism industry, helped by the growth of national carrier Etihad Airways and larger Dubai-based airline Emirates.
Kevin Ryan, managing director of development for Gulf Related, said those airline connections, an affluent local population and the rapid growth of the shopping scene in the country are a draw for retailers.
"The more and more retail you have, the more attractive it becomes.... It's become a major destination," he said of the Emirates. "It's a strong local market that's supplemented by tourism."
Malls in the Emirates boast a dizzying array of Western brands, including many such as Armani, Banana Republic, Gucci, and Gap that Al Tayer operates locally. They also host some eye-popping attractions. One Dubai mall features an indoor ski slope complete with penguins, while another wows shoppers with a massive aquarium, ice-skating rink and a dinosaur skeleton.
Cincinnati-based Macy's Inc. operates both Macy's and Bloomingdale's.
Ryan said he expects the different offerings of the two stores -- Bloomingdale's appeals to higher end shoppers -- will complement each other as they anchor two ends of the 2.9 million square foot waterfront mall. Each will be spread over four stories and take up more than 200,000 feet.
Gulf Related is a joint venture of Abu Dhabi-based asset management firm Gulf Capital, which is backed by regional investors, and New York-based real estate firm Related Companies.