Saturation point – can Portugal take any more shopping malls?

The opening later this month of Loulé’s mega shopping complex Mar Shopping Algarve (alongside recently-opened IKEA) will be the last for a long time to come.

Says Expresso in an article headlined: “Portugal cannot take any more shopping malls”, analysts and experts in the sector are all agreed, the country has reached “saturation point” – not least because the population is “not growing”.

Indeed, the population is shrinking, but that’s a subject no one likes to tackle.

So, for the time being, it’s a question of making sure that the centres in existence pay their way.

Property consultants Cushman & Wakefield (C&W) say that “adaptation to new technologies is obligatory”.

As more and more people buy articles online, shopping malls will have to readjust their focus to embrace “areas that cannot be dealt with virtually’.

This means malls will turn more and more to restaurants/ cafés/ eateries, creating more spaces for leisure and “even opening art galleries and spaces for shows”, says Expresso.

Nationally, malls employ around 300,000 people (100,000 directly, the remainder indirectly) and turn over roughly €9 billion per year.

To keep this up in a changing environment where tourists particularly are embracing the quaintness of historic town and city centres will now be a major challenge.

C&W’s Marta Costa has even stressed that traditional ‘commerce’ – those high street shops that so many turned their backs on in the last decade – could be making a comeback.

Meantime, millions still flock to commercial centres.

Expresso gives a figure of 550 million customers during 2016, with the country’s total area taken up by these cathedrals to consumerism as 3.2 million sq metres.

As for the investment behind them, C&W cites Americans Blackstone, Germany’s RREEF and the UK’s Rockspring which between them have “allocated the most capital into mall market in Portugal” since 2003, totally altogether around €900 million.

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