Hungarians catch mall madness
June 29, 1997
Web posted at: 3:24 p.m. EDT (1924 GMT)
From Correspondent Jackie Shymanski
BUDAPEST, Hungary (CNN) -- Hungary is a country rich with
culture, stunning architecture and beautiful vistas.
Visitors can tour Gothic and Baroque cathedrals, take the
thermal baths whose waters promise to cleanse and cure, and
then relax in the glory of a sunset on the Danube.
Will they meet Budapest residents there? Not many. Natives
are more likely to be found absorbing the pre-fab culture of
the shopping mall.
Zoltan Pap and his family are among the horde of spellbound
Hungarian bargain hunters who routinely make Budapest's new
shopping malls a weekend family outing. The malls have
casinos, fast food outlets, even an indoor skating rink.
There is so much to see and do that Hungarians can't seem to
get enough of them.
"It is strange in Hungarian terms," admitted Pap. "But that
is it's magic."
"There are so many shops, and you can buy a lot of things,"
Pap's wife Esther said.
Unfortunately for some of the mall's stores, popularity
hasn't necessarily translated into sales.
"We do make a profit, although we had higher hopes," said
Nagy-Szilvia Babiak, one store owner. "But we think it will
Analysts say she is probably right. Western business
conglomerates backing the malls expect to eventually rake in
great profits, especially since prices at the malls are a
bargain compared to regular retail prices in Budapest. More
stores under one roof mean lower prices.
And cheap goods appeal to buyers trying to make ends meet in
a market economy.
"I buy food here because everything is cheaper," said one
older woman. "We're pensioners, so we go where it's cheap."
But the mall concept is less appealing to owners of the
quaint, old-fashioned boutiques where Hungarians used to
shop. The boutiques now face the same threat as their North
American counterparts -- gradual decline, and eventual
Malls are mushrooming all over the Hungarian capital. Six
are already open for business, and at least another dozen are
But an initial positive response is waning, and the Budapest
civic government is now considering restricting this
Nevertheless, mall makers argue, with 2 million potential
consumers in the capital, there is more than enough business
to go around.
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