Erbil Shopping Malls Threaten Old Businesses, Bazaars
|June 12, 2013||Filled under Iraq Daily News|
Erbil, Kurdistan Region – As he works at his modest tailor’s shop in Erbil’s ancient Nishtiman bazaar, Wasta Majid fears that the many shopping malls mushrooming in the booming Kurdistan Region’s capital threaten traditional businesses like his.
Over the past five years, together with the booming oil-fueled economy of Kurdistan, Erbil has experienced a construction boom that some observes liken to Dubai.
The capital’s Royal Mall and Family Mall are among the larger shopping attractions, but planners have announced a giant commercial center in Nishtiman, a part of Erbil that is believed to be one of the oldest inhabited city centers known to modern man.
When finished, the Nishtiman Mall will house 8,000 shops, 4,000 offices, 5,000 parking spaces and four towers, one of them a five-star hotel, according to the Middle East Company for Reconstruction and Investment, which is in charge of the project.
As residents witness their city take the leap from tradition to modernity, business owners like Majid fear that the days for small businesses like his are numbered.
“We offer the cheapest prices and our quality is up to standard, but today Kurdistan has become materialistic,” he laments, as he works on a women’s scarf, the spindle on his whirring sewing machine spinning like a top.
“It’s all about imitation of other cultures and societies. We’re giving up these small alleyway shops for what? Malls!” complains the 66-year-old who has been working as a tailor since he was a teenager. “We have lost a large number of our customers to the malls.”
Rekar Aziz says he likes to shop at malls because of the higher quality products sold there. “You can get everything at the malls in one location and you don’t have to walk around everywhere to get what you want,” he says.
Hiwa Jalal, manager at OnTime retailers which is located inside the Family Mall, says that shoppers are growing sophisticated, and want global brands.
“People are now more familiar with globalized brands and they’re willing to pay a reasonable amount for these goods. They know what types of brands they want and how to find them. These brands are simply not available in the traditional and old market places and it will never be there,” he notes.
OnTime sells 29 different brands of watches and Jalal believes young people want the brands they see on the internet or television.
“We’re making ourselves come to an international level. We’re seeing advancement everywhere because we have the same demands as those in other countries,” Jalal adds.
In 2011, Erbil saw an 8 percent growth in its economy driven by its oil and gas reserves estimated to be near 50 billion barrels. Its GDP was 50 percent higher than the rest of Iraq in 2012, according to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
But Mahmoud Mohammed, a 21-year-old student at The University of Educational Studies, says he still likes the traditional markets, especially the Nishtiman bazaar. “Things are too expensive at malls and I can’t afford to shop there,” he explains.
The newer business owners say they are not only taking advantage of the booming economy, they are contributing to it by creating jobs.
When New City Mall opened in 2006 it brought 250 quality jobs to the local citizens, according to the KRG.
“The historic opening of the New City Mall is a further sign of economic progress here in the Kurdistan Region,” the enclave’s Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said at the opening.
Despite the growing issues between local vendors and their discontent with large malls, KRG officials are still pushing forward and urging investment to bring more and more development to Kurdistan.
In 2006, the KRG passed the Investment Law, allowing for a total of $28.2 billion to be invested, most of it coming from within Iraq, according to official figures.
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