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Traditional stores vs modern malls

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Most cities around the world, big and small, are known to have their own type of shopping district.

For years, Ruwi was the hub of shopping in the Sultanate of Oman’s capital city Muscat, especially for garments, jewellery and affordable restaurants.

Stores related to computer hardware, vehicle accessories and electronics, all types of home appliances and home furniture have their designated areas within the jurisdiction of this shopping district. As Ruwi is also home to the main bus and taxi stations, accessibility to and from the area has never been to worry about for regular visitors.

For very long, Ruwi has been popular among the sizeable South-Asian expatriate community, especially for the one big shopping before the annual vacation.

“In the old times on Thursdays and Fridays and later Fridays and Saturdays (until the start of Covid-19), Ruwi used to be among the most crowded places on the planet. It was a weekend meeting ground for single expatriate workers to socialise and interact with their friends. Popular Indian and Pakistani restaurants used to have a long queue of customers waiting for a table’’, said Prakash B, manager of one such restaurant. “People used to come after a big shopping spree, either the weekend purchases, especially after the salary, or the one before going on annual vacation’’, he added.

Jewellery shops used to be another major shopping attraction among the South Asian community before the annual vacation.

Private vehicle owners used to skip the Ruwi trip on weekends as finding a convenient parking space was like a game of a maze.

Over the last 15 years, a lot has changed with the flourishing of one-stop shops (hypermarkets or supermarkets) across the country.

“Even some of the remotest wilayats of the capital and the Sultanate of Oman today have small to medium size hypermarkets that sell from food to appliances to furniture.

“First, people started avoiding Ruwi because of the crowd and the parking woes. Then, of late, they see no point in travelling so far when all items are available in their vicinity. The restrictions to limit the spread of Covid-19 added to the woes of the businesses in Ruwi.”

All this notwithstanding, Ruwi is also getting a makeover with the emergence of the modern type of shopping complexes. But the traditional businesses argue that the commercial district is going through a process of transition with the makeover plans of the civic authorities.

Not to forget that we have a top-grade hotel in the Ruwi High Street area today.

As the authorities work on decongestion plans, places like Ruwi compete with new dynamic shopping districts that emerge in different wilayats and cities.

While new shopping complexes have their share of fans, traditional businesses argue that it is always good to shop from outlets that offer personalised services and customers walk in anytime if they have issues related to the product.

“We get to create a rapport with our regular customers, which help to expand our business without spending much publicity’’, said the owner of a popular textile store in the heart of the district.

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