The much-anticipated Beirut City Centre (BCC) mall finally opened its doors last week and thousands of Lebanese have already flocked to Hazmieh, causing chaos on the already congested roads leading to the venue.
Boasting forty new brands or “firsts in the country”, there is certainly a lot to get excited about but, as the initial hype dies down, one wonders if the mall has what it takes to keep customers coming back.
The mall, in the Hazmieh area of Beirut, is impressive in size but perhaps not in architecture
From the outside, BCC is rather basic, especially compared to some rivals that have invested heavily in their exterior appearance. But the 65,000 square meter interior is well organized despite its size, divided into three floors with strategically placed escalators that give it a manageable and structured feel.
The shopping experience, however, currently feels like a work in progress as many of the 200 outlets, including VOX cinemas and several core retail brands — Victoria’s Secret, Marks and Spencer, and Pottery Barn — have not opened their doors yet.
The branch of Carrefour is the first in Lebanon
So far the main reason people have been filling the halls of the Beirut’s newest mall is the opening of Carrefour, a 12,857 sqm hypermarket spread over three floors. The luring of the second-largest retail chain globally is quite a coup for BCC and many shoppers Executive spoke to said that they were coming mainly for Carrefour and would possibly visit other shops along the way.
Carrefour claims to have the lowest cost items of any supermarkets in the country. Customers who have tested these claims generally agree that it provides worthwhile promotions, especially in household items, but say that food is generally around the same price as elsewhere – especially with all the supermarkets dropping their prices to beat competition. Walking through Carrefour, one is dazed by its sheer size, but if you enjoy large, well-organized supermarkets where you can hunt for daily bargains, then the French-owned brand is ideal.
This child was less impressed than his parents
Another popular venue at BCC is Magic Planet, a huge space dedicated to children’s entertainment that has proved popular in Dubai. This 1,337 sqm version is packed with the latest in arcades and carnival-like games, and the space is buzzing with children whose parents are all too happy to buy their children the pretend debit card at the door (a more modern version of arcade coins) and leave them to rush off and max out their own cards.
Also imported from Dubai is the concept of the food court, located on the third floor of the mall. Restaurants in Lebanese malls tend to have separate seating areas and so the idea of a common dining area is new to the country, though it seems to be popular. Employees in the area around BCC were especially happy with the wider variety of quick meal options they now have during their lunch breaks, ranging from Kababji to KFC. The more specific food and beverage outlets options, which include Cheesecake Factory and Shake Shack, are not in operation yet.
The communal food court, so popular in Gulf malls, has arrived in Lebanon
Retail wise, BCC houses many brands not found in the local area — including Springfield, Express and American Eagle Outfitters — and is also introducing new brands to the country, two points which are bound to make it a top spot for fashionistas in the area. Both the brand mix and the facilities that BCC is providing seem to be catering towards families with a middle-level income.
A visit to Beirut City Centre leaves one with a sense of expectation for what will be when all the stores are fully in operation; once the Carrefour dust has settled down, it remains to be seen if the other key attractions and new brands to the country will be enough to keep the city center on its feet for the years to come.