Observations on Stores in Abu DhabiInsights and Hidden Opportunities – Thomas Bell
Luxury Car Showroom, Abu Dhabi - ExteriorBright lights with exciting looking car-related logos draw you in to the showroom
Luxury Car Showroom, Abu Dhabi - ExteriorLazy use of Times New Roman (or similar) on a cheap sticker for the website address makes the showroom look cheap, andcontrasts sharply with the expensive cars inside
Luxury Car Showroom, Abu Dhabi - ExteriorAbu Dhabi is a city of contrasts, and here this is starkly demonstrated as filth pours onto the pavement from the waste overflowpipe meters from the Rolls Royce sat inside the showroom
Luxury Car Showroom, Abu Dhabi - ExteriorInside the shiny, well-polished cars look inviting, but there’s no escaping that awful website address sticker
Luxury Car Showroom, Abu Dhabi - ExteriorWhy do all expensive car showrooms have shiny floors? I’ve just noticed this, and looking at the reflection of the McLaren above, itmakes it look somehow more exciting and dynamic – especially when combined with those insanely powerful lights
Luxury Car Showroom, Abu Dhabi - EntranceThe logo is overly bling, as you might expect, but there’s another wonderful contrast with a down-to-earth Subway advertisementof the billboard just outside the entrance
Luxury Car Showroom, Abu Dhabi - InteriorWhy have two doors when you can have three? It looks ludicrous, but it’s a good question – certainly for some of the largerfamilies out here in the Middle East (with more money than sense) this could be perfect for the school run
Luxury Car Showroom, Abu Dhabi - InteriorMessy promotional displays seem out of place in a showroom like this – probably wouldn’t matter much as it isn’t entirely clea whatthey’re advertising… and the traffic cone is brilliant
Luxury Car Showroom, Abu Dhabi - InteriorNot entirely sure what this is for, but it adds to the surprisingly messy feel of the interior
Luxury Car Showroom, Abu Dhabi - InteriorParts of the interior really appealed to my car enthusiast side, like this magnificent solitary wheel left standing in a small side roomthat seems to be doubling as a store room
Luxury Car Showroom, Abu Dhabi - InteriorAnother wonderful example is this engine – it’s not entirely clear what it’s here for, but it is exciting. It’s such a shame that they’renot making the most of it, having it perched in the corner next to a fire extinguisher seems like a missed opportunity
Luxury Car Showroom, Abu Dhabi - InteriorTwo-tone Rolls Royce caters perfectly to the target Arab customers
Luxury Car Showroom, Abu Dhabi - InteriorHaving so much room around the vehicles makes them seem somehow more special – we visited a Ford garage after, andalthough the furbishing was nicer, the cars were closely packed together, which made them seem less unique
Luxury Car Showroom, Abu Dhabi - InteriorThe bright lights really are everywhere, and mostly point directly at the polished cars. Are we really that simple that we’re attractedto glittering things like magpies?
Luxury Car Showroom, Abu Dhabi - InteriorFor when your standard Rolls Royce wheels just aren’t cool enough
Luxury Car Showroom, Abu Dhabi - InteriorThat iconic logo, more carefully polished than any other part of the car
Luxury Car Showroom, Abu Dhabi - InteriorNot all the lights were switched on – those in empty areas were off, presumably to accentuate those areas that were occupied withcars. The ceiling and light fittings are filthy, and badly in need of a refurbishment
Luxury Car Showroom, Abu Dhabi - InteriorOne common theme for all the stores we visited was interior plants, another is pointless, generic paintings – it strikes me as amissed opportunity that so much interesting original art work is available cheaply, yet stores still insist on this generic stuff
Luxury Car Showroom, Abu Dhabi - InteriorNo contact whatsoever with the sales staff – on the one hand they probably figured early on that we were a few hundred thousanddollars short of the price tag for even the cheapest car on display, on the other hand exclusive stores are often less intrusive
Luxury Car Showroom, Abu Dhabi - InteriorJudging by the quality of the ageing air conditioning control, it was probably set to 5 degrees just to maintain a normal temperaturein the desert sun – though this one had been turned off, presumably just prior to closing the store for the night
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi - EntranceThere’s something strangely inviting about the eclectic, jumbled display of never-sold items in the front window of the store – itseems like a world filled with possibility, something that modern generic supermarkets lack
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi - EntranceAs usual in Abu Dhabi, the pavement is filthy, but what purpose are these stone blocks serving? I’d understand if they were a rampor a step. Also, why is there a sticker on the door at ground level?
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi - EntranceInteresting to see the English language newspapers on prominent display
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi - EntranceA theme for a number of these stores is broken lights – there seems to be a massive opportunity in offering hassle-free exteriorstore maintenance services on a subscription basis or similar
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi - EntrancePresumably these items are carefully selected by the store owner as the most likely to entice customers in to the store, but the factthat they never seem to sell (or rotate) would suggest otherwise
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi - InteriorI love this wall of colour that greets you as you enter the store. This full use of space and varied mix of items points to a world ofopportunities, a treasure trove where you never know quite what you might find
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi - InteriorEntering deeper into the store you see the items that you likely came for, the drab washing liquids and water bottles rather than theenticing, colourful food packaging. It is amazing that even in a store this size, customer routes are clearly being considered
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi - InteriorI don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I have a real love for stationary – and this display is the equivalent of stationary porn for me –chaotic, but somehow ordered into its rightful place
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi - InteriorAt the back of the store is the bottled water – that precious substance that makes life out here in the Middle East possible – Atabout $0.5 a litre, it’s roughly twice the price of petrol in Abu Dhabi. Notice the prayer mat rolled up on the right
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi - InteriorInteresting to see how many lights there are for sale, when the exterior lights at the front of the store are not working. Perhaps theyare intentional left broken to save money? More likely no-one has taken the initiative to change them
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi - InteriorThese awful strip lights are so ubiquitous in supermarket stores – perhaps the supermarket stores could learn something from thecar showroom to improve their spotlighting of key products?
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi - InteriorIt’s amazing how much of the guts of a shop are on display, and you never normally notice because you automatically filter outitems that you aren’t on offer
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi - InteriorAnother example of that is this sink, which I would never normally have noticed tucked away behind the soft drinks refrigerator
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi - InteriorApart from water (because it’s hot, and the tap water is disgusting), and light bulbs (because the wiring an electricity arepoor, causing bulbs to blow frequently), the other staple item is tissue boxes, which are customary anywhere you might have
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi - InteriorIt’s amusing how Mars probably paid for this unit on an exclusive contract to stock Mars items only, yet the shelf is now being usedfor dairy products. Perhaps the original contract has now lapsed but the owner is too lazy to change it. Missed opportunity?
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi - InteriorOr maybe the advertising was simply paid for on a payment-for-display basis – I’ve just realised how little I know about retailmarketing practices in the Middle East
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi - InteriorThese displays are in any store in the Middle East (and Asia as a whole). At first glance I find it repugnant that white skin is seenas the paradigm of beauty, but on the other hand, is that just post-colonial guilt? Is it any different from tanning crème?
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi - ExteriorLeaving again I notice the self-repairs on the plumbing and window – these really detract from the appeal of the store. Amusinglythis is the only store that we were confronted by the shopkeeper and asked why we were taking photos!
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi – Local EnvironmentIt is unusual to see graffiti in Abu Dhabi, perhaps it has been created by the store owner to make his store into a hipster-cooldestination store…or maybe not
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi – Local EnvironmentThe hum of air conditioning units is ever-present in the Middle East, so much so that you don’t normally notice them until they dripon your head – would it be so hard to find a way to collect the drops somewhere?
Convenience Store, Abu Dhabi - Local EnvironmentMore graffiti – this time some of it in Arabic
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi - EntranceThis sweet shop is the most inviting so far – the use of lighting is good, and the various crystal and silver displays look veryenticing
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi - EntranceHere the marble floor seems to work well with the down lights from the ceiling installation, similar to the car showroom. What isthat painting? The traditional frame seems to contrast with the modern lighting style
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi - EntranceThere has to be a way to make these parking ticket machines less obtrusive, or remove them all together – they really spoil thelook of the store exterior
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi - EntranceAttention has been paid to the Arabic sign to make the font and style similar to the English sign, this is a good attention to detailthat keeps the brand consistent across languages
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi - ExteriorWhat are these crystal cases holding? It feels like they should be filled – though perhaps it’s to highlight the fact that they are forsale (as well as the sweets)
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi - ExteriorThese interior flowers are fake, unlike most of the plants that are featured in this presentation
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi - ExteriorSilver displays are well-polished, and catch your attention well, dragging you inside
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi - EntranceThe card-logo stickers are the most lackluster part of this store – they’re easy to miss, and need replacing with new vibrantstickers. Do the banks ever follow up with replacing these, or is it left to the retailer?
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi - EntranceScuff-resistant flooring protects the marble
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi - EntranceLocks on glass doors are so unobtrusive – so much so that I haven’t really noticed them before
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi - InteriorWonderful presentation of the dates, though it’s a shame that they have to cover them in plastic wrapping. Perhaps an air-tightdisplay would remove this need and protect the dates better, while displaying them more effectively?
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi - InteriorPre-arranged sweet boxes for convenience
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi - EntranceWonderful old-school style presentation of nuts – reminiscent of an old sweet shop, but using modern Ikea jars
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi - InteriorSimilar story with the sweets being covered in polythene
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi - InteriorPerhaps the most interesting display in the shop so far, we found this mixed dried fruit jar so exciting that we had to buy a bag. Wethen spent the next 20 minutes comparing dried fruit. The verdict? Old favourites Mango and Pineapple good, peach a surprise hit!
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi - InteriorThe entire range of dried fruit nicely breaks up the lines of the refrigerated sweet displays, and adds variety to the colour. Why canI not buy dried peach anywhere else? I really think this product would sell well in organic stores in the west
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi - InteriorNice contrast between dark and light chocolates, well-lit as ever by the powerful lighting
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi - InteriorSimple, central display of Macaroons is very enticing, and sticks with the principle of “less is more” when it comes to exclusivity. Asis the case throughout this store, the use of colour is fantastic
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi - InteriorWhatever happened to this style of price-tag?
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi - InteriorAmusing side-piece cockerel – perhaps there is some link between Iran and cockerels that I’m not aware of… quick check onWikipedia and it doesn’t look like that’s the case
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi – Local EnvironmentConstruction is everywhere in Abu Dhabi – I can’t help but feel like something more could be done with these covering barriers
Persian Sweet Shop, Abu Dhabi – Local EnvironmentNowhere do you feel the underlying segregation of society in Abu Dhabi than in the fly-posted advertisements for room mateswhere people don’t hold back in letting their preferences known (Indians only, Filipina preferred, non-cooking bachelor etc)
Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – Local EnvironmentExciting lights display of the Eid festival entices customers into the mall
Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – Local EnvironmentTo the uninitiated (or European) eye, these light displays can seem quite vulgar, but by Arabic standards they’re actually quitetastefully restrained. It’s amazing how small cultural differences manifest themselves
Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – Local EnvironmentPalm treed nicely break up the monotony of the mall exterior
Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – EntranceThere is a small entrance and exit door that funnel customers into this entrance area, the doors badly need to be enlarged to easethe flow of customers into and out of the store
Coffee Shop, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – EntranceStarbucks is instantly recognisable the world over, and there’s no mistaking it even in the Middle East. Again the use of polishedfloors and bright downlights catches my eye
Coffee Shop, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – Exterior“Outside” seating is provided in the mall common area… I’m thinking now how much I miss sitting outside to eat and drink in thehot summers here. There is a huge opportunity to provide the outdoor feel without diners melting in the heat
Coffee Shop, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – ExteriorStarbucks has paid careful attention to match English and Arabic fonts as much as possible, in a similar way to the sweet shop
Coffee Shop, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – InteriorI wonder how many different locations these mugs are produced for? These were one of a number of “localisations” that I spottedin an otherwise generic Starbucks store
Coffee Shop, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – InteriorAnother “localisation” is the food – while the coffee is largely the same the world over, the food changes dramatically from countryto country – I really wish they’d sell the mint, halloumi, and olive panini in the UK
Coffee Shop, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – InteriorThe greeting experience in Starbucks is also very similar the world over… As are the names I make up for them to write on mycoffee
Coffee Shop, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – InteriorThe condiments also seem to be the same the world over – this is a shame, as there are probably some local Middle Easternadditions that would be popular here… cardamom anyone?
Coffee Shop, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – InteriorThe neighborhood board is a nice touch, and something that could be employed effectively by other companies
Coffee Shop, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – InteriorThe same temperature as my home air conditioning – is 21.5 degrees the perfect temperature for drinking coffee?
Coffee Shop, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – InteriorOne thing I noticed everywhere that I wouldn’t normally, was fire extinguishers – they’re everywhere, which is quite comfortingshould I ever need one. It’s amazing how well they blend into the background despite the bright colours
Coffee Shop, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – ExteriorFamiliar logo, with no translation into Arabic
Cafe, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – EntranceFirst store so far to make use of the Halloween theme to attract visitors, but more interesting is the trolley being pushed into thestore cupboard. Again I’m amazed by the scale of logistics in stores that must be hidden from us in plain view
Cafe, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – EntranceInteresting use of a pop-up store as a coffee shop – it almost seems too nice not to have a permanent store
Cafe, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – ExteriorPeriod style railings contrast with the bland mall interior, and draw your attention to the coffee shop
Cafe, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – InteriorThe cover on that table looks removable or easy to wipe down
Cafe, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – InteriorIt always amazes me how some cultural references are cross all geographical boundaries, I’m now adding Scream to a list thatincludes Simpsons and FRIENDS
Cafe, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – InteriorGreat display of a low value food item (cupcakes) to enhance their perceived value – as ever, “less is more exclusive”
Cafe, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – InteriorWonderful cupcakes are very different to normal varieties, and attract customers through their uniqueness. As with the sweet shopthe colours are very varied
Cafe, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – InteriorNice selection of free reading material, something that Startbucks is lacking
Cafe, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – InteriorInteresting box displays, but more could be made of the fact that takeaway options are available
Cafe, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – InteriorGreat subtle use of Halloween themes
Cafe, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – InteriorStaff here were very engaging, and seemed happy. Interestingly in the most enticing, well presented stores (this and the Persiansweet shop) the staff seemed happiest. Perhaps an extension of “Broken Window Theory”, or maybe just good management
Cafe, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – InteriorHalloween theme must be very exciting for kids, but is that the target customer base for this store?
Cafe, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – InteriorLaptop for managing the store, blends into the surroundings well and wouldn’t normally be noticed
Cafe, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – InteriorFriendly notices with positive messages always seem so much more effective than aggressive threats
Cafe, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – ExteriorThe irony of the “keep out” message at the entrance to the shop is probably lost on most visitors
Cafe, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – ExteriorStylised graphical representations of cupcakes work better than photos here. What on earth is a “boutique cupcake”, have we allgone buzzword mad? I’d definitely be the sucker who’d go for luxury though!
Cafe, Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – InteriorThe crow is a fantastic addition
Al Wahda Mall Stores, Abu Dhabi – ExteriorValley parking for malls is an innovation that might work in Europe
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – ExteriorBright, buzzy exterior with trees and foliage creates a buzz around the restaurant
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – ExteriorVaried coloured lighting elements attract people driving by the restaurant
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – ExteriorOutdoor seating is basic, but interesting makes use of the marble + bright lights combination. Here is the tissue box mentioned inthe Convenience Store
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – ExteriorI’ve been here many times and never noticed the external electricity sockets before. I wonder what they plug into these?
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – ExteriorOnce again, a number of lights are not functioning on the exterior of the store… perhaps I’m onto something with these exteriorstore maintenance contracts?
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – ExteriorLots of real plants improves the privacy of the restaurant, and makes it feel more glamorous than sitting on a dirty street pavement
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – ExteriorOutdoor waiter station has everything to hand, including more music, cutlery, and MORE tissues!
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – InteriorA glimpse into the upstairs kitchen shows just how many vegetables are used in Lebanese cooking – I wonder where all thesecome from in the region? Oman? Saudi Arabia?
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – InteriorInteresting mix of indoor plants and Arabic bling chandeliers. Somehow, here, it just works and fits the location
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – InteriorIngenious replacement for a knife holder just outside the kitchen, but I do hope that knife won’t be used for cutting food
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – InteriorBin bag hung over the balcony is very conspicuous, but I doubt I’d normally have noticed this
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – InteriorTrapdoor into the toilets, but leading to where? I guess storage space, but surely there’s a better way to store cleaning products?
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – InteriorTypical Middle East wiring setup
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – InteriorOne of the ways that globalisation seems to make the world smaller is in how many infrastructure products find their way acrossthe world. These are the same taps that I had in my school bathrooms…
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – Interior…This latch was used in an old house I used to live in…
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – Interior…And drunk, fighting octopus seems to find his way everywhere!
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – InteriorIndoor plants are interesting, but they are also nicely concealing the fire extinguishers wrapped in polythese
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – InteriorI wonder why it is that they are covered in polythene…
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – Interior…Or why there are so many of them? Perhaps there’s a building code that states a minimum number of fire extinguishers perthousand square foot of space… If that’s the case, it’s a shame it doesn’t stipulate they have to be more spread out
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – ExteriorLebanese food is incredible, and this is exactly how it should be presented
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – ExteriorThese terracotta pots are cheap, but make all the difference to the presentation
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – ExteriorThe waiters here are artists – they treat you with a little disdain when you arrive, nudging you to “win them over”, becomingincreasingly friendly throughout the meal. The complimentary coffee with the bill considerably increases their tip earnings
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – ExteriorThey complimentary coffee is good
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Dhabi – ExteriorCar delivery (from 10m away) is a very Arabic innovation… I hadn’t noticed how the waiters kept track of all the customers untiltoday when my friend asked why they were writing down the car numberplates
Lebanese Restaurant, Abu DhabiAl Wahda Mall Stores, Abu DhabiCoffee Shop, Abu DhabiPersian Sweet Shop, Abu DhabiConvenience Store, Abu DhabiLuxury Car Showroom, Abu DhabiAll photosCopyright Thomas Bell 2012Contact firstname.lastname@example.orgThank you for viewingHope you enjoyed the presentation:-)