ICSC: International retailers circle Bulgaria (BG)

Retailers think the worst of Bulgaria's economic downturn is over as more international names start circling shopping centers in capital city Sofia and other larger cities across the country, such as Varna on the Black Sea.


An increase in private car registrations in Bulgaria could signal better times to come.

At the International Council of Shopping Centers' (ICSC) Bulgarian Retail Real Estate Conference, Arlyse White, Business Development Manager at BHS International outlined the retailer's ambitions for entry into Bulgaria, and Debenhams, H&M and C&A also have the country in their sights. Peek and Cloppenburg, Koton and Indetex Group entered last year.

Like other countries across Eastern Europe, Bulgaria has experienced significant economic difficulties, with Bulgarians saving more leaving less disposable income, leading to low sales volumes. However, while the country is not out of the woods yet, there are 'green shoots' on which the industry can build.

In 2010, 15 retail developments were cancelled, 30 postponed and five new schemes announced, but Bulgaria compares favorably with neighbor Romania which saw a massive 35 cancelled, 48 postponed and only three new announcements. Even Poland, which has not experienced the same economic difficulties as its neighbors, has had 10 schemes cancelled and a massive 52 postponed.

According to Christian Probszt, at real estate finance company Immorent, recent news of an increase in private car registrations in Bulgaria could signal better times to come and the country's relative economic and political stability also give the right messages to potential investors.

Shopping center professionals are now upping their investment in active asset management and a number of international marketing professionals spoke at the conference on center commercialization, branding and marketing strategies, integrating mall and internet shopping and harnessing the power of social media to boost awareness.

Ozgur Yavuz, Managing Director at Investa Property Solutions and Chair of the ICSC Bulgarian National Committee, said: "Bulgarian's shopping center industry is still young, and after the difficult years those who continue to survive the crisis have learned a huge amount very quickly. The international speakers who were prepared to come and share their industry knowledge with delegates, show that Europe is now taking Bulgaria seriously again. They recognize as well as us that the best time to invest in a country's economic cycle is when it's about to start rising again."

Source: Nicky Godding

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