We first started working with Al Futtaim on their Marks & Spencer stores in March 2000 when we were asked to look at the design for their Sahara Centre, Sharjah store. At the time we were already designing the Mall interior and so had a good idea of the sites constraints, the biggest being the noise and vibration from the rollercoaster in the FEC (Family Entertainment Centre) on the floor above.
We had no “design guidelines” to follow and there was only one other M&S in Deira, Dubai at the time and that was quite dated. We only knew what a Marks & Spencer should or could look like based on our UK and Middle East experience. Locally, the brand perception was higher end than the UK’s perception of a typical High Street store. It was a very popular brand with locals & expats alike. People shopped here in volume and by the trolley load, not our little British basket with one or two items in, and they would shop as a family. So we designed a store that would become the template for the next few store openings & refurbishments in Dubai, Oman, Qatar & Bahrain and which also became the subject for the Design Guideline Manual we produced for M&S UK’s International Franchise Group to give to their international franchisees and their architects as a definitive design guide. An open, inviting & balanced entrance, clear signage, marble floors, ceiling features, focal points, large & comfortable fitting rooms, & good retail lighting.
The next few years would see M&S UK develop internally & internationally with a new brand look & interior design emerging. M&S UK would now hold annual design conferences to advise their international franchisees & their architects about their latest thinking & design. We would take this latest design and applied this to new store development across the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Egypt, Jordan & Lebanon over the next few years. We would be involved from initial site feasibility through to site project management. Notable sizeable stores over 50,000 sqft including 2 level flagship stores at Dubai Festival City, Villaggio Mall Doha, 360 Mall Kuwait & Cairo Festival City.
A new 70,000 sqft, 4 level store standalone store opened in downtown Kuwait in 2014 which was the start of the new departure to a more department store feel & moodier lighting. The latest stores to open in the UAE were a relocation of the Mall of the Emirates store in Dubai, and a new store in Yas Mall, Abu Dhabi, each with completely different shopfronts to reflect the changing thinking of M&S UK. Yas Island is a very different shopfront with an acrylic finned fascia & new brand signage, whereas the MoE store shopfront is more reflective of the new branding with its nod to Marks & Spencer’s history & heritage & its Portland stone façade & gold lettering.
R+R Design Team: Glynis Rabone, John Rabone, Bibin Varghese, Wassim Jammal, Renjith K.S, Aneesh VT, Hareesh KC