MODERN SHOPPING CENTRES

WIESŁAWA LEWANDOWSKA

Probably it is some time since it has been possible to speak about overwhelming Polish market of shopping centres, but there are more and more of them. When thinking about it, one gets a headache as new buildings are being built insensibly, for example, in locations not promising worthy profit to those who are often tempted by false promises and decide to open their businesses in these buildings of shopping centres. It appears more and more frequently that the consumptive potential near a newly opened shopping centre, even despite 500+ is not suitably high. It is difficult to say what developers hope for when building newer and newer palaces of trade in various strange places. Surely, not for their common sense.

Shopping centres are built not only in big cities but also in the smaller ones, according to demographic forecasts- unfortunately, doomed to spreading depopulation. Tenants of shops are going bankrupt there, as rents are very high, and brilliant things promised by owners of shopping centres remained only a trade lie or a daydream.

Despite that Poland is full of shopping centres. Their owners still hope for high profits – despite the basic restriction of trade on Sunday. As Poland has been an excellent insatiable market. This is how foreign owners of shopping centres think, as this is mainly the foreign capital which invests in tens of new shopping malls. Surely this is the reason why it used up its all possibilities origin countries.

Analysts in the West say that the shopping business is going on there more and more slowly and gets stuck at times; profits of shopping malls has been systematically falling since 2008, and vacant shops are 50 percent of the area of the whole shopping malls. In the centre of the shopping business in the USA, even their end is predicted - mainly because of the fact that societies are opting more for online shopping, and also because of tiredness of the shopping life style; there is a fact that beside online shopping, the Americans want to do shopping in smaller shops. What is symptomatic is the fact that today’s American young people – according to the survey of the Michigan University – do not like spending their time in shopping malls as they used to, and they even think that spending time in them is ‘embarrassing’.

Instead of a carpet beating rack

What is striking about shopping malls in Polish cities is that every time of the day crowds of young people still being students tend to go there. According to special surveys carried out in the Hospital of Psychiatry and Neurology in Warsaw, being in shopping malls is a way to ‘satisfy natural psychological and social needs at this age’. As a natural thing is that the youth are attracted by a place thought as attractive. However, psychologists express their concern about whether satisfying psychological needs in this way is constructive. One can be concerned, that even, on contrary – it leads to astray and instead of good emotions it raises the bad ones.

For the youth who cannot afford a lot of shopping, shopping malls are a substitute of places which do not exist or which young people do not want perceive. And a shopping mall gives at least some illusions.

Polish youth visit shopping malls so massively not for shopping – although they like the shopping malls or they may be addicted to them – rather to till the time and have fun with their mates. What is more, as teenagers say, often visiting shopping malls and shopping in them raise attractiveness in the eyes of their mates. They mainly mean not doing shopping but meeting and talking with others. So, they spend their time in shopping malls wandering, trying on some clothes, looking at products or sometimes playing tricks on guards, sometimes stealing ‘for sport’.

Sociologists say that shopping malls simply began to take over the function of previous places outside houses where the youth used to meet at carpet beating racks. Among young people from big cities there has not appeared boredom yet but for young people from small towns long-distanced pilgrimages are still a great attraction and purpose, although they are not delighted with their uninteresting offer – in comparison with their western and Asiatic equivalents.

A total entertainment

Today’s shopping malls are packed with nearly everything – shops became a margin of their existence. One can often see that all possible actions are done so that a man – a customer could spend nearly 24 hours in them. And, that is why, more and more strange shopping malls are appearing. The first contemporary – similarly to the today’s ones but, incomparably smaller – shopping centre was founded in 1956 in Edin in Minesota. It was really small – simply a big grocery shop and a few shops of other branches – but it quickly became an example to follow. It was the first shopping centre to be close down. After some years those new shopping centres began to offer entertainment, which was aimed to attract customers.

However, the era of the mass development of shopping centres began not earlier than in the 80s of the XX century, when big shopping centre were designed and created as a kind of enormous roofed markets in Near East, which are a few hundred years old (Grand Bazaar in Istanbul was built in 1461).

These modern ‘bazaars’ have something from their prehistoric markets, and are trying to imitate them, adjusting the contemporary man to needs or maybe rather create and multiply these needs, close them in the shackles of the XXI-century-consumptive glitz. Despite that, these more and more menstrual temples of trade and entertainment begin to lose clearly with similarly acting gigantic online shops.

In order to prevent total bankruptcy and vision of enormous empty buildings scaring similarly as hovels of old factories – and this is the future predicted to shopping centres by some economists and sociologists – the owners of shopping malls have been troubled for a few years by how to attract people. In the 90s of the last century gigantic businessmen began to invest into big shopping malls, among the others, Disney, Universal Warner and others; in American shopping centres the first theme parks were appearing then.

In Polish shopping centres nobody is surprised by various kinds of services, cafes or ‘artistic events’. However, they need a lot which is offered by foreign giant shopping malls and surely, in Poland there were attempts to fulfill this big gap, but Poland is not the USA or Arabic Emirates. In Łódź manufacture – one of the biggest Polish shopping centres – created in 2006 in the buildings of renovated textile factories, consists of museums, cinemas, discos taking area of 110 thousand m², over 250 boutiques and shops. and also a market of over 3 acres having a function of an open public spaces.

Today in many Polish shopping centres there are cinemas and fitness clubs, bowling alleys, dance schools, beauty salons, dentist surgeries and even medical services (mainly esthetic medicine). Such a wide offer, according to the owners of shopping malls, is liked by Poles a lot. They are known to enjoy medical service… Even 40 percent of customers declare that they go to shopping centres in order to take advantage of an entertainment offer, as according to surveys, 89 per cent people who visited a cinema, chose just the one which was in a shopping centre. Is it really true that shopping centres became a place of meetings for a bigger number of Poles, as their managers say enthusiastically, declaring their readiness to develop their offers adjustably to the local needs? Let’s hope it is not so.

Churches and sea lions

However, it is difficult to imagine – at least for now – that in a shopping centre a housing estate, a school or even a nursery would be built (only special places and gadgets for children, so that they would not disturb their parents in their doing shopping) or a church, although when shopping centres began to appear and fulfill Sunday of Poles, such ideas have also appeared. At present in shopping centres in the world there are about 20 chapels and churches of various Christian religions.

Polish shopping centres are trying to arouse consumers’ emotions in various possible ways, but luckily, they will not be able to compete with such giant shopping malls, like one of shopping malls in Tokyo where there is Hospital named John Hopkins, Ritz-Carlton hotel, art galleries or Mall of the Emirates in Dubai which takes pride in…. skiing area (as befits a desert country). However, we are facing up all this and maybe an investor will make up another shopping centre with a ski jump to play on sentiments and passions of Poles.

In the biggest shopping centre in the world – West Edmonton Mall (built in 1981) in Edmonton, in Alberta in Canada, there are the so-called theme regions (for example Europe Boulervard and Chinatown), a theme park Galaxyland and a lake where sea lions live. The biggest shopping mall in Europe – Istanbul Cevahir takes pride in a glass roof and the second biggest clock in the world. Also Warsaw Golden Terraces are known for the interesting construction of the glass roof. Now there is a world race of big shopping malls to catch consumers; there are newer and newer – bigger and bigger with more and more sophisticated traps. One of the first architects of these buildings assumed that they would serve to social life and civic activity. But are shopping centres really able to play such a role like an urban market used to play for ages and which was not only a business centre but mainly a place for integration meetings? Do shopping malls really provide a possibility of permanent interhuman contacts? Will such places help the society or will they distort civic rallies?

In Warsaw big shopping malls have been popular since they began to exist and raise the value of the cities where they exist – they are – and they have been presented so since the beginning – a determinant of nationwide welfare, as Poles are crazy about buying everything and everybody enjoys it. However, it is also possible to notice some trends of resigning from fashion for shopping malls. For example, in Warsaw famous and expensive brands prefer a separate location in the centre of the city than in shopping malls here, and shopping malls cafes are not a favourable place for meetings of those who want to be ‘trendy’. This is quite a good sign for the future.

Translated by Aneta Amrozik

Niedziela 17/2018 (29 IV 2018)

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Lidia Dudkiewicz • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl