Mall Mania Grips Southern Sofia
The process of mallification continues unabated in the southern districts of Bulgaria's capital Sofia with three new enormous shopping malls due to open in the next few months.
The three schemes under construction - Bulgaria Mall, Paradise Center and Sofia Ring Mall - dominate the new retail supply in the capital and are scheduled to welcome their first customers in December, March and the end of 2013 respectively.
Cumulatively, those three projects will deliver to the market in Sofia in 2012/2013 approximately 180,000 sq. m.
Several more shopping centers in Sofia are in the pipeline, which will take the total number of malls in the Bulgarian capital to over ten.
A few major retail openings and flexibility in formats have signaled the first signs of recovery on Bulgaria's retail market in the first half of this year.
The opening of furniture giant IKEA, which took place in September 2011, stimulated the competition in this segment, being a major determining factor for the price and product policy of many operators on the market.
Each of the new projects is trying to add new features and points of attraction that will add "flavor" to the traditional retail functions of a shopping mall, such as variety of leisure amenities, amusement parks, synergies with retail giants (e.g. Sofia Ring Mall and IKEA store, which are located close to one another).
While malls and shopping developments continue to be clustered in Sofia, the mallification ambitions of other big cities have been hit hard by the raging economic slowdown and shrinking demand.
The country ranked first in the European Union in the number of new shopping malls in the first half of the 2010, but now the number of malls is on the slide.
Some of the announced and planned projects have been delayed, while others may never make it off the drawing board.
The Danube town of Ruse, northern Bulgaria, is an example of developments on the retail market and the construction of malls in particular across Bulgaria.
Out of the seven separate new shopping malls initially planned, five got were under construction, but only three opened their doors to clients. Royal City Center, Mall Ruse and Mega Mall Ruse are still operating, but do not enjoy high occupancy rates.