Mall Culture in Istanbul

Things to Do, What's New — By Aysegul Surenkok on April 3, 2010 at 4:37 pm

I was in Akmerkez today and had an interesting conversation with the host at one of the elitist restaurants there. I asked if Akmerkez was as popular today as it was five to ten years ago, and the answer was in negative waters. Despite all the renovation that has been undertaken at the old mall, the crowds were not as large as the shopkeepers and the restaurants had hoped. The rents had gone down severely as did the number of visitors in the past few years. Of course the global crisis has a lot to do with these developments (people were / maybe are spending less); but the major influence seems to be coming from the excess of malls in the city and the smoking ban that has been put into practice since almost a year ago.

There are in fact a lot of malls in Istanbul: at least one mall in one neighborhood. Consider the neighborhood of Levent. There are two malls that are standing width apart -Kanyon and Metro City- and at least five other (big or small) in the vicinity of these two major malls: Mayadrom, İş Towers and Astoria. When we add Etiler’s malls as well -which are not further away either- we end up having somewhere around 10 shopping malls in approximately 5-8 sqm (with the addition of Akatlar Culture Center, Mohini and Akmerkez).

The smoking ban is another major issue that has put the malls at a disadvantage. In the old and golden days, the malls used to fill up with people no matter how bad the weather might be. At least the business people would be arriving for their lunch break to take a look at the shops or to eat at the food court. With the ban today, many people prefer to be outdoors, where they can smoke, especially when the weather is fine, sunny and warm.

Istinye Park seems to be one of the lucky malls in the city that still attracts more people than is necessary -one literally feels suffocated on a given Sunday at Istinye Park. The advantage of Istinye Park is its vast open area surrounded by the major and rich brand shops (like Louis Vuitton and Prada). The restaurants in this area attract more people than do the shops. The socialites love to luncheon here with their small branded goods, whilst the valet or the curious make circles around luncheoning ladies with their sports cars. You too are more likely to be smoking and people-watching here, rather than shopping…

That is then the mall scene of today in Istanbul… Once there was a mosque in every Külliye (neighborhood), now a mall…


Tags: Malls, Shopping, Smoking