Lebanon’s Mall Centralization

With the news that ABC is opening another mall in Beirut, set for a 2017 opening, it dawned on me: bureaucracy isn’t the only thing that’s centralized in Lebanon. Malls have their own centralization as well: I will call it Mall Centralization: Al Markaziye Al Malliyé.

Prior to ABC’s grand Verdun-related unveiling, CinemaCity had announced that they will be bringing their cinema experience to Beirut Souks, a souk-mall hybrid that we are all familiar with.
With that, let’s look at the total tally of malls and cinemas in Beirut and immediately around it:
– LeMall in Dbayyeh
– ABC Dbayyeh, less than 200 meters from LeMall
– CityMall, a few kilometers from ABC Dbayyeh
– ABC Achrafieh, a few kilometers from CityMall
– LeMall, Sin el Fil, a few kilometers from ABC Achrafieh
– Beirut Souks, a few kilometers from ABC Achrafieh
– ABC Verdun, a few kilometers from both Beirut Souks and ABC Achrafieh.

All of the above malls have (or will have) multiplex cinemas in them as well.

Which other Lebanese cities have malls other than Beirut? I can think of Saida and that’s mainly because it’s Mr. Hariri’s hometown. If you go North from Beirut, you will find no malls and no cinemas until Las Salinas in the North and City Complex in Tripoli, both cinemas only with the latter having a few stores here and there and both of which are nowhere near decent enough to show movies.

Tripoli is Lebanon’s second biggest city and hasn’t had any major construction projects that found their way to completion even during the periods when the city didn’t experience the clashes that take place today.

And let’s assume Tripoli is a big no-no for political reasons, despite that being downright despicable, what’s wrong in having similar development in Batroun or Jbeil? You know, something to serve those who don’t want to drive an hour in order to watch a movie to buy a shirt.

So while places like Beirut Souks ruin the idea of an old fashioned Souk and while places like ABC Achrafieh overcrowd neighborhoods that are already beyond crowded with cars and traffic, someone saw it fit to add another mall in an empty space in Beirut. Because the city absolutely needed one.

I won’t go into how malls affect negatively smaller retailers that create bustling streets and bring life to some aspects of urban life in Beirut. A metropolitan place like Beirut should have malls and such projects, there’s no denying that.

But the question is the following: What’s Lebanon’s Mall Centralization limit?

I say it’s until every single empty space in Beirut runs out.

Other places in the country don’t (and won’t have) have similar developmental projects hat would bring jobs and some economic life to arguably an entire region.

Flipping the coin of Lebanon’s mall centralization, and in broader terms the centralization of capital, economy and development, is rise in poverty and consequently extremism. But there’s no point in caring – Beirut is getting a new mall soon. The other twenty right next to it were not enough.

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30 thoughts on “Lebanon’s Mall Centralization

  1. You know that the problem is Elie?

    The Lebanese people.

    I had been away from Lebanon for a year when I visited in December 2011. My family resides in achrafieh and a lot of my friends in metn and keserwan. Whenever I wanted to meet up with a friend, ABC ashrafieh and City Mall would always be suggested as a meeting place.

    I tried to reject the idea whenever I could, simply because I found it degrading for us a a country with beautiful scenery, a coastline along the whole country, mountains and hills to limit ourselves to an indoor-crowded space, with all that it does is promote consumerism and create traffic.

    I understood the need for malls when I was in the deserty dubai.
    I understand the need for malls here in Minnesota where the average temperature from December through March does not go beyond 5 degrees celsius.

    But why do we succumb to that in Lebanon? Because we are lazy, we are simply people who have surrendered our fate and decision making abilities to whoever is in charge.

    All these malls would not invest and open withing minutes of each other if the people were not supporting their businesses and helping them expand. Eventually, it becomes a vicious circle where you have to open a branch of your business in the mall to maintain your customers and people have to shop at the mall coz everything else outside the mall is going out of business.

    When you change the people, the politicians will change and the business will adapt….

    Reply
    • I don’t think this is entirely accurate. Some people overdo the malls. But sometimes, there are no other options.

      If you wanna catch a movie, malls are your only option. It’s not entirely about laziness – it’s about convenience in many aspects.

      Sure, ABC and city mall are not my go-to destinations for fun but I don’t mind them. What I mind is the fact that there are twenty other ABCs and CityMalls that do the exact same thing and are all next to each other. I’m no business expert but doesn’t this harm your business?
      Eventually, when you have this many malls, businesses outside suffer as a result.

      Reply
      • would all these contagious malls be opening if they were not in business and needed the expansion?

        Why can’t we have movie theaters outside mall complexes? that has always been the trend and the norm.

        Reply
        • I don’t think the Mall execs know that their business is at the saturation point already. If each mall is functioning at maximal capacity, any extra mall will reduce its efficiency. And I’m not only talking about novelty effect.

          I don’t mind movie theaters like the good old days. A few still exist here and there but no one sees them as a worthwhile investment.

          Reply
  2. Opening a mall basically depends on two main factors:
    1: It depends on the demand, and basically Beirut has the most number of people who are willing to go to these locations and pay for the best
    2: it depends on the factor that Beirut is one of the most law abiding cities, so there’s a low risk (compared to other districts in lebanon) for these malls to be destroyed in case some group of extremists wanted to destroy it.
    so all in all, what abc did, in my eyes, seems to be totally logical

    Reply
    • Hey Bob, I believe the malls I listed above (I apparently forgot a couple as well) are more than enough to serve those who live in Beirut. Building more malls will lead to the following:
      1) Decrease in business in the malls that are already there.
      2) Increase in density in areas that are already more than dense – Achrafieh and Verdun come to mind.

      I also highly doubt that Beirut is considered a law abiding city. Need I remind you where the 2008 May incidents played out? Hamra and Verdun. When the May 2012 events were also taking place, Verdun was dealt a hand. It’s no Tripoli but there was a time when all the malls were opening when Tripoli was much safer than Beirut. It’s not about security – if they wanted law and security, Jounieh, Jbeil and Batroun are safer and better bets and would actually serve a lot of people as well without affecting the business of existing malls as much.

      Reply
  3. Buddy, it’s called Econ 101: Supply and Demand.

    Im sure that most mall developers in Lebanon want to open their malls in areas where they can make the most revenue, and what helps in that is having less competition. So i’m sure they have all done market studies to see whether opening a mall in different Lebanese regions is feasible, and have probably come to the conclusion that a mall in Batroun or Jbeil won’t make as much money as one in Beirut.

    It’s called the market, which should be the final arbitrar of whether a mall should be in a certain area or not. If ABC Verdun opens and doesn’t make any money, then it will close. If it stays open because it is making money, then it deserves to be there because there is demand for it. So instead of you deciding where malls should and should not be, thankfully, the market decides, with the losers closing down and the winners remaining open.

    The fact that there are many malls open near each other means only one thing: That there is a demand for them and that they should be there. So to answer your question, the limit on how many malls there will be in a certain area is decided by the consumer, although it seems as if you wish the government would intervene and limit the number of malls that can open, which is what would probably happen in a communist country like Cuba.

    Reply
    • Lebanon’s economy is a laissez faire model which allows things to go uncontrolled until it doesn’t work anymore. The issue here isn’t simply about supply and demand because it assumes there’s no demand elsewhere.

      When the only money and investment you put is in Beirut, the demand will only appear to be in Beirut. When you’re only giving everyone in the country the only option to go to a mall in Beirut, you are also inviting them to go only there for their business.

      When you’re opening up the mall in Verdun, those who went to ABC and Beirut Souks would probably stop going there and those place’s business would go down – maybe not by a sizable amount for them to care but it will.

      It’s not simply about supply and demand – it’s about investors believing both are only centralized to Beirut and acting accordingly.

      Reply
  4. In addition, to your concern about “density”, urban areas are supposed to be “dense”, that is why they are called cities. In terms of traffic, the problem isn’t that there is a mall, but rather that the transportation infrastructure is weak (small roads, lack of viable public transport). So the solution isn’t to restrict economic activity in a given area, but rather to strengthen the transportation infrastructure.

    Reply
    • Considering the traffic around malls is now named according to those malls, that shows that those malls create unnecessary traffic.

      And urban areas are not supposed to be as disorganized and chaotic as Beirut’s are.

      Reply
  5. Agreed. there was a cinema complex in Mkalles open for a few years didn’t make money so it closed. We can’t start subsidizing malls at public expense just to make things “fair”.
    Also, malls are a public space that serve an important function in society. They are like parks and playgrounds: a place where people can meet and socialize with their community. The alternative is for young people to hang out on street corners and cause trouble.

    Reply
    • I didn’t say malls are useless. I said that there’s simply way too many of them in one specific area which is less than 20km2 while everywhere else has a severe lack of them.

      To oppose your example, Las Salinas has been operating for years and it doesn’t seem to be going out of business.

      Reply
  6. The North of Lebanon will – unfortunately – always be ignored. And the more they ignore it, the more poverty will strike, and the more abandoned it will be. It’s a vicious cycle and unfortunately for the people of the North, they’re only going to build malls in places where people can buy from them. And it’s not just malls, it’s everything: restaurants, coffee shops,…

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Lebanon’s VIP Cinemas & Empire Premiere | A Separate State of Mind | A Lebanese Blog

  8. Pingback: The Tripoli You Don’t Get To See | A Separate State of Mind | A Lebanese Blog

  9. Pingback: The Tripoli You Don’t Get To See | lebanoneguide.com

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