Lebanon Businessnews News

Solidere expects retail to step up
New outlets planned by Virgin, Versace, GAP
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Virgin Megastore will open a new branch this June in the Beirut Souks facing the old L’Orient-Le Jour building. This will be Virgin’s sixth local outlet after Martyrs' Square, ABC Ashrafieh, ABC Dbayeh, Hamra, and City Mall-Dora.

“The Beirut Souks branch will have a total space of 500 square meters, parted into two floors,” said Mohamad Ismail, Product Manager at Virgin Megastore. The outlet will be dedicated to DVDs, multimedia, gadgets, and gaming. “It will not sell books, because it is very close to Librairie Antoine,” said Ismail.

Several new retail stores will be opening soon in the Solidere area, including Samsung, Versace, Robert Abi Nader, Façonnable, GAP, and Superdry. Jean Jabbour, Store Manager at Samsung, said: “Although activity slowed down due to low tourism, we still have good business thanks to our loyal customers and the residents of the Beirut Central District.” Samsung has been in Solidere since 2011 and is opening another outlet near the Beirut Municipality building.

Rental fees for retail shops range between $750 and $2,000 per square meter per year.

Activity in the BCD had slowed down over the past few years with several retail outlets and coffee shops closing down. Mounir Doueidy, General Manager of Solidere, said: “The slowdown has mostly hit the hospitality sector, mainly restaurants and cafes. But retailers have been doing better despite a drop in their turnover. A few brand stores that had closed down before, like Bulgari and Rolex, are now planning their comeback to the BCD.”

Solidere still ranks in first place when it comes to retail real estate, followed by Clemenceau and Verdun, said Majid Hakim, CEO of Hgroup Architects, a local real estate development firm. “Solidere offers first rate services, the buildings are well-maintained and infrastructure is well planned, while other areas in Beirut are overcrowded and are marred by many violations,” Hakim said.

According to Solidere’s fourth quarterly report, the total built-up area in the BCD stood at a little more than 3 million square meters at end 2012, up by two percent from end-2011, and constituting around 64 percent of the whole planned BCD project area. Solidere’s master plan dedicated some 550,000 square meters of the overall land area to retail and mixed-use spaces. The Beirut Souks area has the bulk of retail spaces in the BCD, with 200 stores covering a total area of some 150,000 square meters.

According to Doueidy, the BCD still has a lot to offer: “Companies will continue to come to the BCD because it has state-of-the-art facilities with many attractions.” Hakim said: “Although the rental fees in downtown Beirut are high, we find that many firms are more than willing to pay for the difference.”

Solidere currently has 394 projects in different stages of development. During the fourth quarter, only one lot was sold at Marfaa with the goal of developing a residential building.
Reported by Yassmine Alieh
Date Posted: 11/4/2013
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