Russian Shopping, in the Western Style
Malls Blossom in Russia, With a Middle Class
MOSCOW — Shoppers who find that 250 stores aren’t enough can go ice skating, watch movies or even ride a carousel, all under a single roof.Moscow alone has 82 malls, two of them the largest in Europe. The article goes on to explain how the growth of malls is paralleling the growth of a large middle class with disposable income, and how and why it's happening. And the political ramifications. Interesting stuff.
While it sounds like the Mall of America, this mall is outside Moscow, not Minneapolis.
“I feel like I’m in Disneyland,” Vartyan E. Sarkisov, a shopper toting an Adidas bag, said recently while making the rounds of the Mega Belaya Dacha mall.
Instead of bread lines, Russia is known these days for malls. They are booming businesses, drawing investments from sovereign wealth funds and Wall Street banks, most recently Morgan Stanley, which paid $1.1 billion a year ago for a single mall in St. Petersburg.
One mall, called Vegas, rose out of a cucumber field on the edge of Moscow and became, its owners say, larger than the Mall of America if the American mall’s seven-acre amusement park is not counted in the calculation of floor space.
A few offramps away on the Moscow beltway, another mall scored a different kind of victory: the Mega Tyoply Stan shopping center drew 57 million visitors at its peak in 2007, well ahead of the 40 million annual visits reported by the Mall of America.
As American malls dodder into old age, gaptoothed with vacancies, Russia’s shopping centers are just now blossoming into their boom years, nourished by oil exports that are lifting wages.
“It’s 1982 all over again in Russia,” said Lee Timmins, the country representative of Hines, a Texas-based real estate group that is opening three outlet malls in Russia, referring to the heyday of the American mall experience. Russians, he said, love malls.
The mall boom illustrates an extraordinarily important theme in Russian economics these days. The growing crowds at malls, and the keen interest in Russian malls on the part of Wall Street banks, are signs that the emerging middle class that made up the street protests against Vladimir V. Putin in Moscow last winter is becoming a force in business as well as politics. [...]
Russia has a long history of mall-like structures, like their traditional GUM (department store). But the modern malls are the next generation, being driven by modern considerations and modern capitalism, with a Russian flavor.