Thursday, April 18, 2013
Change the Pearl!
Today dohanews posted a report that UDC, the company behind the development of the Pearl, has hired a consultancy firm to revisit its strategy of being a “high-end” shopping destination, possibly shifting to stores more in the mid-range.
UDC could spare itself the huge consultancy fees and ask me for advice -- I'll charge a lot less. ;-) Do I think the Pearl should change from its high-end shopping strategy?
Tons of super-expensive overpriced stores and restaurants has not worked. In fact it's become kind of a joke. A colleague of mine and I still laugh about the time we were at the Pearl a year or so ago and popped into this top-end housewares store (I don't remember its name) where we saw things like a bottle opener for QAR 400 ($US 110). Seriously, are you kidding me!?! And we’re not talking some kind of fancy electric-bottle opener, this was a bottle opener like the one a bartender uses to open a bottle. We were the only ones in the store. Gee, I wonder why. I guess there's not enough blindly-rich people in Qatar to support this type of stuff.
UDC just needs to look at two things:
• what are the people who frequent the Pearl looking for; and
• what shops at the Pearl seem to be doing decent business
It's that simple -- find out what people want and provide it.
I've been to the Pearl many times and what seems to be busy? Reasonably-priced restaurants and reasonably-priced coffee shops. Everything else, with the exception of the supermarket, is pretty much empty. Second Cup seems to be busy, meanwhile many restaurants have closed. Visitors to the Pearl seem to be families or casual walkers just out for a stroll, not the type of people who are going to pop into a store to buy a multi-thousand riyal purse. The only reason I go there is to wander around and see what’s changed.
UDC will also have to fix the parking situation. On the one hand they want more people to visit yet even now parking is not always easy to find, the parking lots near buildings 1-6 tend to be pretty busy, you have to go much farther out (maybe to the parking lot near Carluccios, is that building 16?) to find parking. How does UDC expect to have double or triple the number of people visiting if there is no parking?
So I think UDC needs to bite the bullet and lower the rents so it can attract more low to mid-range enterprises. I think that's what visitors really want anyway -- something casual.
UDC may also want to consider more shisha places. Go to the Souq and Katara and what is popular there? Places where you can have shisha. Is there a place in the Pearl that has shisha? Maybe the Lebanese place near building 1? (I think it might but I'm not 100% sure). The Pearl has better views than the Souq so I'm sure it would attract visitors if they have shisha places.
My hope is on Qanat Quartier section of the Pearl, the Venetian-looking area. Get nice cafes in there and it would probably be a nicer place to hang out in than the main area of the Pearl.