Smagulov: Malls do not kill the city, they uplift the city
The construction of shopping centers does not kill the city, but they uplift the city. Nurlan Smagulov, the founder and Principal of Astana Group and the member of the Almaty City Council, at the request of the Krysha reporter, was asked to comment on the recent announcement of developers of the general plan of Almaty that numerous shopping centers destruct the view of a city center.
— It is hard for me to imagine how we kill the city by creating a shopping center, as well as sports grounds, alleys, ponds with fish, free basketball, football, etc. around the center (SEC — Ed.). Inside, we create educational centers, we build skating rinks, show movies, and feed people. What do we kill? I just cannot understand. (…) We kill flea markets, this is unequivocal. To some extent, we kill the street retail. Kazakhstan is a young country. Our customers like shopping centers. If the family has a choice of where to spend Saturday and Sunday, then the children vote for the shopping center. It does not mean that we brainwash children. They can come to us to jump on trampolines, eat with their parents, even at a food court. We do not see anything wrong with this. I just tell the parents all the time: do not bring children to SEC every day. For example, we encourage our children to do this every two weeks. To say that we are killing something … I do not agree. We are not a casino, we are not doing anything wrong « Smagulov said.
Also, within the framework of the Central Asian International Real Estate Forum, the businessman shared his opinion about what current consumers needed and told about the development of shopping centers in Kazakhstan:
— The consumer needs to receive comfort and a favorable environment for each member of the family. They go there for sensations, not for goods. I often watch how people behave in the shopping center. They come there to taste this atmosphere. Take, for example, Astana — this is a city with harsh climatic conditions. Try to walk outside now. Where will you go? Wind, rain. (…) In general, Kazakhstani people are beginning to eat more and more at home. This is urbanization, it is adequate. In future, 60−70% of our free time will be spent outside of our homes, unlike our parents and grandparents. A lot of services will be developed, including home food delivery. Educational things will also begin to develop. There will be a boom in spa salons, fitness and other things.
In continuation of the topic, the speaker told about current trends in the distribution of space in shopping centers. He said that in future the room for food courts will be increased from 15 to 25%, and the space for entertainment, educational centers and various social things will grow from 30 to 40%. However, less than 50% of the total space will be dedicated for shopping. He said that such redistribution was necessary to let a person to comfortably spend all day at mall.
According to Smagulov, current tenants bring only half of those revenues that were three or four years ago. He also said that the payback period for construction of the shopping center had greatly increased. So, the first mall built by his company paid off in 8 years, and the latter one will cover costs only after 16−20 years.