JALE ÖZGENTÜRKThe triggering motive of the incidents that resulted in the death of five young people in Turkey was the shopping mall projects planned to be built at Gezi Park. Reactions to the Artillery Barracks (Topçu Kışlası) became a symbol and especially turned on shopping mall projects mostly in Istanbul.
During the incidents that started on May 31 and continued until the end of June, while the most active malls in the city center were under pepper gas, the retail sector was naturally affected by this.
How did the incidents translate into figures? First, the Council of Shopping Centers – Turkey (AYD) issued its usual monthly AVM index. Figures show that even though not much, the incidents have affected the malls. The increase in their June turnover is 6.1 percent compared to the previous month.
The other evening, the figures of the Istanbul Shopping Fest were disclosed. The fest went on quietly during the Gezi incidents. What was feared did not come true at the festival. The turnover increased 10 percent, compared to last year, to 8.25 billion Turkish Liras.
Head of the Executive Committee of Istanbul Shopping fest and also the owner of LC Waikiki, Vahap Küçük said more than 150 brands joined the festival that was held between June 8 and 30 with their discounts.
The actual aim of this festival it to sell goods to foreigners. Küçük said the total amount of shopping done with foreign credit cards has increased 11 percent compared to last year.
The spending amount per capita at Tax Free was 585 liras last year while this year with a 19 percent increase this figure reached the average of 697 liras.
The number of foreigners arriving in Istanbul during the festival was below the expected number. It was 957,894, which is 2 percent more than the figure for the same month last year. Küçük said the expectation was 1.1 million. The breakdown of foreigners who came to Istanbul for shopping are as follows, Küçük said: “The lion’s share in shopping belongs to Azerbaijan followed by Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait and Russia. Those countries that surprised us are China with a 100 percent increase in spending and Brazil with 68 percent. Iranians who used to shop the most in previous years have gone down.”
A sectorial breakdown shows that a 30 percent increase was recorded in shopping malls and markets. The second place goes to electronic-electric goods with 27 percent followed by a 26 percent increase in food and a 24 percent increase in furniture and decoration. The increase in clothes and accessories is 8 percent.
On the other hand, head of the United Brands Association (BMD) Hüseyin Doğan said certain brands were affected more than the others due to location. Doğan said, “Owners of shops that were located especially in Taksim, Istanbul and at Kızılay, Ankara were affected.”
The Gezi Park incidents have finished but they are still on the agenda; however, even though some people are angry, the positive results of reactions to “what were imposed despite people’s will” have started arriving. This comes out of our chats with retailers. One businessman said, “Not everything is money. We have seen how much the young people in Turkey are involved in their country.” We talked about park projects that were announced one after the other after the incidents. According to the retailers, thanks to holidays and the school season, the annual targets will be met.
Apparently, the retail sector proved to be more resilient than the tourism sector. In other words, shopping is resisting…
Jale Özgentürk is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece was published on August 1. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.