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Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Are shopping malls killing Turkey's traditional way of life?


International investment group the Aerium Fund is planning to invest more than 80 million euros in shopping malls in Turkey.

A shopping mall market leader in Turkey and internationally, Aerium was the first international firm to enter Turkey’s shopping mall sector, with a 201 million euro investment in 2006. They even poured money into projects in 2009, during the depths of the recession.

Now, Carrefour malls are to be built in Bursa, Ankara and Mersin, while many others are underway in Fethiye and the Antalya region.

Forum Istanbul, which opened last year in Istanbul, boasts the largest aquarium in Europe.

At the moment, shopping malls cover around six million square metres throughout Turkey. This number is expected to reach 15 million square metres by 2015.

A Aerium spokesperson said the shopping mall sector is an important driving force for the economy, and noted that Turkey needs to expand and grow.

“However, this growth should be planned and organized. It should not harm small-sized retailers or municipalities.”

But what are all these shopping malls doing to the traditional Turkish bazaar? Istanbul’s iconic Grand Bazaar, for example, attracts 100,000 shoppers each day. But now nearby malls are providing more and more competition for this Istanbul institution. Developers of Istanbul’s Kanyon Mall insisted they were only ‘updating’ the Grand Bazaar tradition, with large, open-air spaces that mimic a traditional market.

But the money spent in these malls doesn’t go to the traditional recipient – the local merchants and economy. It goes to huge investment companies. One bazaar retailer remarked that the situation had become so ‘crazy’ that two shopping malls are often built side by side.

Turkey’s economic growth has happened so quickly that Turks have gone from having black and white televisions to giant plasma screens, and for many, their first phones were mobile phones.
Of course, Turkey is entitled to this kind of consumerism just like anyone else. But has it taken some of the magic away from the traditional way of life?

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