ABU DHABI: Retail development in Abu Dhabi is set to expand rapidly, borne along by a young population, strong brand association, good infrastructure, and a booming tourism sector.

In what will amount to a significant challenge to the existing large retail sector in its fellow emirate of Dubai, Abu Dhabi is expected to increase its retail footprint to over 2.5m sq m in the next couple of years, Gulf Business reported.

An upmarket new shopping mall of 33k sq m, The Galleria in the Sowwan Square district, has opened already and offers 125 retail and food/beverage outlets.

And shopping destinations are planned in other districts, such as the Deerfields town square in Al Bahia, the Emporium Mall at Central Market and a Capital Mall in Building Material City.

Global real estate agency Jones Lang LaSalle has forecast that over 349k sq m of new retail gross leased area (GLA) will be launched by the end of 2013 and total retail space across the capital is expected to reach 2.6m sq m of GLA by the end of 2015.

Property consultancy CBRE said Abu Dhabi is looking to establish itself as a major destination for leisure and shopping.

It said conditions for expansion in the emirate were ideal because of its youthful population, strong brand association, solid household consumption, modern retail concepts and flourishing tourism.

Kevin Ryan, managing director of retail developer Gulf Related, the company that developed The Galleria, said he expected 'retail tourism' to increase as visitors take advantage of the emirate's quality resorts and airport infrastructure.

He further predicted that most shops will be state-of-the-art and high quality outlets and revealed that The Galleria even had to turn away brands like Chanel and Hermes because it was booked up.

Data sourced from Gulf Business; additional content by Warc staff