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'Two Men, Lonely Saleswoman': Shopping Centres Getting Deserted In Belarus

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'Two Men, Lonely Saleswoman': Shopping Centres Getting Deserted In Belarus

A mass exodus of small and medium-sized businesses is observed.

Belarusians are increasingly noticing changes on the shelves of shops and in retail outlets. First, your favourite cosmetics brand disappears and you have to switch to another one, then there are practically no goods left on the shelves, except for those from Russia and CIS countries. The choice is rapidly narrowing, businesses, according to statistics, are actively dying, while new ones are not rushing to appear, the Belsat TV channel website reports.

There is also a shortage of workers. According to the latest BEROC survey, during the interview with entrepreneurs, a lot of them stated the shortage of human resources in trade and services. They call such an existence survival rather than life, let alone development.

The situation is especially noticeable in shopping centres. The mass exodus of medium and small businesses leaves behind rows of closed and empty premises and trade boxes. A lot of entrepreneurs are moving out, many of them are closing: shoppers have no money, and businesses have no profit. The situation is also fuelled by the large development of marketplaces in Belarus: while the queues are getting shorter in shopping centres, they are only growing in Wildberries checkout points. And the business goes to where the people go.

We can find 1230 offers for rent or sale of premises for trade and services on the site megapolis-real.by in Minsk. The largest number of offers for premises from 50 to 100 m² (426). The largest number of offers for premises ranging from 50 to 100 m² (426). But the real situation and the scale of the problem should be assessed on the spot. Journalists looked into some shopping centres.

The Zerkala shopping centre is a large three-storey shopping centre near the Kamarouski market in the busiest part of Minsk, not far from TSUM. The centre sells clothes, footwear, cosmetics, perfumes and home goods on an area of 11,000 m².

It would seem that there should be no problems with either business or customers in such a place in the centre. However, you simply need to step into the first floor to realise that everything is far from that: the huge number of empty boxes and closed premises is impressive. We can find 61 premises there, which are for rent (two on the ground floor, 58 on the second floor, which is a quarter of the total number of premises).

Four premises of 8, 15 and 17 sq. m. each are for sale. Price: Br 2338-3082 per square metre.

Pretending to be a sole trader, we called the shopping centre to find out the rent. The conditions here are quite attractive: 12 dollars plus 10 roubles for utilities (water, heat, electricity, waste removal, lift use) per square metre. The prices do not change, even if you rent premises with renovation. However, they say that prices will soon rise.

Why is it so empty here? As they say in the centre, a lot of shopping centres are empty because people have no money. They also blame businessmen: some of them work only two hours a day. Indeed, on some of the boxes, there are sheets with phone numbers or business cards of the owners for communication. This is a new format of trade: if you want to buy something, call, we'll make a deal. Perhaps this is just a problem of one particular shopping centre?

Not far away is another shopping centre - "Impulse", one of the oldest in Minsk, where more than one generation of Minsk citizens used to dress. The area is comparable to "Zerkala" - 12 000 m². There used to be crowds here during weekends. Now the excitement has apparently worn out - not only among the entrepreneurs, but among the buyers as well. Neither the city centre, nor the advantageous location near the metro and Kamarouka saves "Impulse".

Seasonal goods: hats, winter scarves, gloves and mittens are sold at the central entrance. There are few visitors, but there are a lot of closed boxes. We counted 14.

The situation in the Atlantic shopping centre is not cheerful either. Two men are looking around in search of shoes - and almost all the boxes are closed, only at the end you can see a lonely saleswoman sitting on a stool with a book in her hands.

We counted 11 premises that are for rent. The price ranges from 12 to 25 dollars per square metre.

The situation is similar in the Europe shopping centre with an area of 11,000 m². The rent costs Br 30 plus Br 6 for utilities per square metre. We found 10 rather large empty premises.

What about smaller shopping centres? Let's take a look at Riga. The total area of the shopping centre is 7600 m². We found 22 closed premises for rent. Under the guise of a sole trader, we called there and found out the prices: a square metre costs Br 25-30, but it is possible to agree on Br 20, plus Br 5 on top for utilities. Come and work, but business is not taking the chance.

What about bigger shopping centres? Let's take the Niamiha 3 shopping centre (the area is 32 000 m²). We found 23 closed premises there, 14 of them are definitely leased, the rest are not labelled. Some premises are just empty, whereas there are still some things and furniture being dismantled in other premises. The cost of rent is higher: 45 euros plus utilities 5 euros per square metre on the ground floor, 30 euros plus utilities on the first floor, 32-35 euros per square metre on the third floor.

There are premises for sale: a square metre costs Br 8524 and Br 9308. There are also ready-made businesses for sale.

Let's check out "Tivali" (65,000 square metres). We can find 12 premises there: 6 for rent and 6 for sale. The price ranges from Br 18 to Br 45 per square metre. Plus Br 9 for utilities. Those for sale: from Br 4116 to Br 5571 per square metre. A 14-metre space costs Br 77 994, and Br 271 656 for a 66-metre space. There are also ready-made businesses for rent: here, for example, you can rent a beauty salon.

The businesses in the Expobel shopping centre (60 000 m²) are also being closed. What is noteworthy is that they are in the higher price segment.

The administrations of the shopping centres we called were warning: if you want to open a business, it is better to choose cheap or at least middle segment goods.

Belstat statistics also confirms the sad trend. According to the data of business demography in Belarus, in 2020 the level of business "birth rate" was the lowest for the last 10 years. Compared with 2021, the number of commercial enterprises decreased by 1.5% in 2022. The lower survival rate of business is specifically observed in wholesale and retail trade. The number of "newborn" businesses has consistently declined in recent years.

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