For those of you who might not get the title of this piece, we frequently use our initials, F&N, interchangeably with the word FUN. That is what we are all about as cookie makers, sharing FUN with everyone we come in contact with. The adventure in the UAE brought our mission of sharing F&N to the other side of the world. And was it ever fun for us, and for so many people that we met for the first time in the Emirates. It was extremely gratifying to watch people from very different cultures and upbringing, and with very different dietary customs biting into our cookies and literally moaning with pleasure. Sales have been growing steadily over the first few weeks, and the business venture looks very promising indeed.
The plan is to open one to two more locations in the UAE in 2015. The next one will likely be in Abu Dhabi, and then we will be ready and experienced enough to open a flagship location in one of the major malls in Dubai. The malls in the UAE are so huge and fantastic; we cannot compare our local Montreal area malls to what we saw over there. The Al Ain Mall where our first store opened is in a smaller city of about 500,000 inhabitants, mostly local, as compared with Dubai which has a population over 2 million, plus millions of tourists that pass through it every year. The Al Ain Mall comprises over 400 stores, and is more than 2.5 million square feet. This is double the size of our largest mall, Carrefour Laval, and close to the total area of Quartier Dix30 including all its stores, parking, office buildings and the Bell arena. And there are much larger malls in Abu Dhabi and especially in Dubai.
But for me, my favorite shop of all was not any of the pricey designer shops, the fancy gold shops, not PF Chang's or even the Ponderosa steak house with it's all you can eat buffet, it was clearly the beautifully named Mr. Spring Potato Food kiosk located near our own shop. Complete with stained photos of happy Western faces eating their screw shaped potatoes on a stick. Just in case anyone wasn't sure what to do with the potato, they owners appropriately put the word "Food" in the name of their store. I'm working on bringing the concept "as is" to all the malls in Canada. Can't miss.
Our last two days in the Emirates, we toured Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the afternoons, after morning training sessions at the store. We visited the Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi, which has been open for only two months. another 2.5 millions square foot mall, anchored by Ferrari World, so fantastic you won't even believe that the pictures are real!
Everything is oversized, one immense store after the next, every possible famous brand from everywhere in the world, from Fauchon to Armani to Debenhams, as well as new and different concepts created specifically for this mall. there's a restaurant where your food arrives on its own roller coaster, twisting and turning down from the three story high ceiling, finally arriving on your plate shaken but not stirred. Here are a couple of photos of the Lego store's camel and the two story high Transformer at the toy store.
Our last afternoon was spent in Dubai, before our flight out early the next morning. We visited The Mall of the Emirates, with its indoor ski hill, including bobsled run, chair lift and poma lift, and a full variety of winter activities inside the mall in a city where the temperatures outside can reach 50C (122F)! We dined at a restaurant with a full view of the slopes and activities.
Unfortunately, our time was limited, and we did not get to see some of the other massive modern malls in the city, and we did not have time to get to Jumeirah Beach, site of one of the world's most spectacular hotels with its palm shaped islands around it. We did get a chance to return to the Dubai Mall, and we were simply overwhelmed by the crowds of pedestrian traffic throughout the mall, as we explored the four levels and the thousands of shops. I have previously posted pictures of the skating rink, the indoor waterfalls and the exterior lakes with their view of the Burj, but here are some more interior shots that might give you a sense of how the world's biggest mall looks on the inside.
We are quite optimistic that within the next two years, we will have shops in each of these amazing locations, as well as numerous others in equally exciting developments that are either already open or under construction at the present time. Our cookies transcend all cultures, tastes and ages. And our partners in the UAE are dynamic, connected and highly motivated to make our brand grow and excel throughout their region. We can't wait to come back and assist in future openings and the growth of the business, as well as to visit this glorious land filled with beauty, kindness, openness and F&N (soon to be a lot more of that!)
One last question. Will they want us back? So long as we are not blamed for bringing our Canadian weather with us. Our last day there was quite a stormy one, and I mean that literally. We awoke to a steady downpour, and some told us that it was the first rain seen in almost 11 months. But it turned out that not only rain was falling- in the desert just 30 km from where Al Ain, this was the scene for the first time in recorded history, except for on mountain tops!
The rains continued all day, and late at night, and as we tried to sleep for a few hours before our flight, the skies were lit up by an incredible electric storm that shook our hotel room, and made for some incredible photos that I found online.
An absolutely spectacular end to an incredible journey. We can't wait to return.