News 10 Oct 12

Half Million Visit New Skopje Mall

An estimated 500,000 people have visited the Skopje City Mall since its opening on October 5, the mall’s investors said.

Darko Duridanski

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“That is a number that we are very pleased with. To be honest, this was above all our expectations. We expect even larger interest especially at the weekends and from the neighbouring countries,” Ivajlo Ivajlo, executive manager of Skopje City Mall, said.

The mall’s grand opening was attended by President Gjorgje Ivanov, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, as well as other government officials.

Located three kilometres from the city centre, the Skopje City Mall is the largest in Macedonia with a total area of 86,000 square metres that includes 130 shops.

Macedonia continues to struggle with attracting foreign investment. Its high unemployment rate – currently at 31 per cent – severely hinders the country’s economic growth. Major international investment projects are heavily promoted by the government and followed closely by the media.

Last month the State Statistics bureau revealed that the Macedonian economy has slipped into a recession. This was due to two successive quarters of negative growth.

The mall’s opening coincided with the release of data that showed a five per cent year-on-year rise in the country’s overall cost of living .

Tatjana Stojanovska-Ivanova, a professor of sociology, believes that this is largely due to the mentality of Macedonians.

"The first point is that there was a lot of hype about the Mall. People are curious and want to see new things", Stojanovska said. She linked the size of the turnout to sales that have been offered by French hypermarket operator Carrefour.

"When people have low salaries, the want to buy (things) that are on sale. This makes them buy beyond their needs. On the other hand, clothing shops and cafes were half empty and people were asking when the sale would begin,” she added.

The mall’s opening has been a major news event in Macedonia. A steady stream of people flooded into the capital at the weekend in order to make their way to the mall.

The Skopje City Mall was valued at €70 million and assisted by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which provided a €18.9 million loan to help finance its development, construction and operation. It extended the loan to Balfin Finance B.V., a holding company jointly owned by Albanian commercial real estate developer Balfin and Macedonian fashion retailer Fashion Group. Balfin Finance B.V. owns project developer, Balfin MK d.o.o.

In addition to attracting major international brands like Zara, Cinetex, Inditex and Carrefour to the Macedonian market for the first time, the mall is expected to create roughly 2,000 new jobs, The Skopje City Mall is also notable for its use of advanced energy efficient technologies that will limit its carbon footprint.

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