East Gate Mall, North Macedonia’s largest shopping mall, officially opened for customers in the capital Skopje on October 29.
The mall will serve customers in North Macedonia, where the retail sector has recovered from the corona crisis, but its developers also hope that good transport links will attract buyers from other countries in the Western Balkans.
As revenues increase in North Macedonia and elsewhere in the EU aspiring region, it has become more attractive to international brands – among those of East Gate Mall are the portfolios of international retail groups from mode Inditex Group and LLP – and there is a great demand for modern products. sales area. Of the 600 brands on sale in its 220 stores, 40 are available for the first time in the country.
The stores include the largest Zara in the Balkans offering both Zara and Zara Home, as well as the other brands in the Inditex group’s portfolio, Оysho, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Pull and Bear and Stradivarius.
Meanwhile, LPP, one of the fastest growing fashion chains in Eastern and Central Europe, has entered North Macedonia for the first time, with its five brands, Reserved, Mohito, House, Cropp and Sinsay. .
“We are happy to open the first stores in North Macedonia, which is the seventh country in the Balkan market in which we offer our fashion. The style and variety of our collections are well received by customers in this part of Europe, ”said Olga Josevska, LPP regional manager for North Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo earlier, according to a statement released. by the company East Gate Mall.
The largest in the country
Developed by the Albanian group Balfin, the shopping center, whose construction cost more than 103 million euros, covers an area of over 160,000 m² and a rental area of around 57,000 m² on five levels and 2,000 spaces parking lot. Shoppers would need 18 hours to explore each catwalk and shop in the mall.
East Gate Mall earlier announced that it had secured a syndicated loan of 72 million euros to finance the project under agreements with Slovenia NLB Group, Komercijalna Banka Skopje, Raiffeisen Bank Albania and Halk Bank Skopje.
According to the developer’s projections, around 12 million visitors from the country and region are expected to visit the mall every year.
It is located just five minutes walk from Skopje city center, but is also close to the ring road around the capital, a component of the M4 motorway that connected the capital to the west of the country and is part of the Pan-European Corridor VIII.
Until now, Skopje’s most popular mall has been the City Mall on the other side of town, which attracts a lot of people for shopping and entertainment. However, East Gate Mall should meet the needs of people who live in the other part of town.
“My parents live in the neighborhood while I am on the other side of Skopje, so the new mall will be a reason for me to visit them more often,” said one of the visitors in an informal conversation. with bne IntelliNews.
Shoppers flocked to the mall during opening day, which was marked with a fanfare and special events including concerts and discounts.
As the mall prepared to open, store workers were making final preparations to welcome the first visitors after 10 a.m. Some wiped down the food stalls, others put clothes on shelves.
Not all stores were ready for opening on the first day, while some workers were still finishing the rest of the interior work such as installing the elevators.
Construction of the mall was completed in just over two years under the very difficult conditions of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, who attended the official opening, said what is important for the local economy is that more than 2,500 people will work in the new shopping center.
“90% of the companies that were hired to build the mall were local businesses and they completed the construction of the mall in record time, working with dedication,” Zaev said.
“We are proud to welcome you on the occasion of the grand opening of the largest commercial building in the history of this country and one of the best shopping centers in the Balkans,” said the Managing Director of East Gate Mall , Sotiris Giannakoudakis, at the ceremony that marked the opening of the shopping center for customers.
“East Gate Mall is not a classic mall, but something much more. It represents a new heart of Skopje, offering an original mix of entertainment concepts for all generations, ”added Giannakoudakis.
The mall is the first part of the three-stage East Gate project. The entire project will include residential and commercial complexes, which are expected to be completed in the final stages. The total investments in the East Gate project in Skopje will amount to 350 million euros.
East Gate Mall is an investment of the Balfin group, based in Albania, whose portfolio covers many sectors such as real estate, tourism, energy and banking. Besides the Albanian market and now in North Macedonia, Balfin Group is also present in the markets of Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and the Netherlands.
A resilient market
Cushman & Wakefield | FORTONMKA, a high-end commercial real estate consultancy with a leading market position in North Macedonia and the exclusive leasing agent for the East Gate shopping center in Skopje, said it ensures a full occupation.
“Despite the short-term pandemic closures, the retail market in North Macedonia has proven to be resilient. Customers are returning to their buying habits and net sales are reaching pre-pandemic levels.
“On the user side, despite the increase in e-commerce and food delivery, in-store purchases remain stable, supporting the value of physical commerce. Major domestic and foreign retail chains have great interest in expanding, and a high-speed rebound is expected, ”Cushman & Wakefield | FORTONMKA said in an emailed statement to bne IntelliNews.
The three mixed-use projects in Skopje, Skopje East Gate, Cevahir Sky City and Diamond of Skopje, will offer 120,000 m² of commercial gross leasable area (GLA) by the end of 2022. The most active occupants remain in the consumer rapidly changing. of the consumer goods (FMCG) and fashion brands segment, according to Cushman & Wakefield | FORTONMKA.
Vacancy rates remained stable below 15%, mainly in the segment of shopping malls and shopping streets. Existing shopping centers in Skopje show vacancies close to 0%, while prime rents remained stable at € 39 / m² in H1 2021.
Retail park rents are stable at € 5-6 / m² in Skopje and € 4-5 / m² in secondary towns. The rates of return for prime shopping malls remained stable, ranging from 9% to 9.25%.
“The retail market in North Macedonia will reach a certain peak of development with the opening of East Gate Mall on October 29 of this year. Over 250 leading global and regional brands have already pre-identified East Gate Mall as a regional shopping and entertainment destination, ”according to Cushman & Wakefield | FORTONMKA.
The real estate consultancy said it has worked to create a world-class tenant mix representing all the new trends in the shopping center industry. Of the 57,000 m² GLA, 40% is dedicated to newcomers.
Some of the well-known brands of the new shopping destination are Zara and Zara Home, Armani Exchange, Calvin Klein, Sinsay, Mango, XYZ, KIKO, Reserved, Oysho, The Athlete’s Foot, Twinset, Patrizia Pepe, Valentino, Tods, Furla, Neptun Electronics, Kiko Milano, DSquared2, Pandora, Massimo Dutti, De Facto, Madame Coco, Babor Cosmetics and Prenatal. In addition, international distribution groups, like Inditex and LPP, have come to the mall with a full portfolio.
“We expect that, in the future, the attention of investors in North Macedonia will be focused on tenants, with an emphasis on business parks as a profitable opportunity not only in Skopje, but also in secondary towns.
“The lack of modern commercial spaces in Kumanovo, Gostivar, Bitola, Prilep, Shtip and Tetovo presents great investment potential for developers. The strong demand for low-cost commercial space, along with their successful performance during the pandemic period, has contributed to a greater interest in commercial real estate developments in commercial parks, ”said Katarina Nikolov, COO. at Cushman & Wakefield | FORTONMKA. bne IntelliNews.