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 Malls in Moscow stand empty turning into ghost towns - The New York Times

The New York Times takes as an example the brand-new Moscow's Avia Park mall, largest than any Europe's one. Row after row, storefronts are vacant. On a recent evening, a handful of visitors meandered past shops that have opened, like American Eagle Outfitters, Adidas and H&M, but purchases are relatively rare. With no customers to serve, a chef at a Sbarro restaurant passed the time honing a knife.

According to the article in the New York Times, the thinning of the mall crowds is one of the clearest indications that Western sanctions over Russia's role in the Ukraine conflict and falling oil prices are starting to bite. At home, Russians are reining in their spending, Censor.NET reports.

Read also: Gazprom curbs its presence in Europe, sources say

No shopping mall seemed big enough to satisfy demand. The Mega Belaya Dacha opened here eight years ago, quickly taking pride of place as one of the largest malls in Europe. Three years later, another mall, called Vegas, rose out of a cucumber field on the edge of Moscow. The brand-new Avia Park is a glittering testament to the power of the Russian consumer. A panorama of white tile flooring, under a soaring, six story-tall glass roof, it is the largest mall in Europe, with 377,000 square feet of enclosed space, a 17-screen multiplex, even a 70-foot tall aquarium of tropical fish. The mall trumpeted its superlative size, recalling the blunt gigantism of Soviet industrial planning, which once brought the world its largest steel mills or hydroelectric power plants. Avia Park is half-owned by the real estate arm of the construction and manufacturing conglomerate that belongs to Arkady Rotenberg, who is a former judo sparring partner of President Vladimir V. Putin.

Read also: J.P. Morgan to remove Russian securities from its investment-grade indexes following downgrades - WSJ

As recently as last spring, the mall was on a path for a successful opening. Companies had nonbinding agreements to lease about 70 percent of the space, according to Maksim Sterlyagov, chief executive of Avia Park.

This year, Zara, the Spanish fast fashion brand, closed its flagship store on Tverskaya Street. Zara's parent company, Inditex, which also owns Massimo Dutti, Pull and Bear and other labels, said it would halt Russian expansion. Gap closed a large outlet in the Atrium mall. Wendy's, the hamburger chain, Esprit, the clothing brand, and River Island, a British fashion shop, are all winding down operations in Russia. Adidas, the German shoe company, announced a restructuring that will close dozens of stores, though one did open in Avia Park.

Read also: Russian economy will lose $160 billion annually if the oil price slumps to $45 per barrel - the Central Bank of Russia head

 
 
 
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