February 2017 was something to consider and reflect upon. Daily papers referred to “warm reflections” on the current state of relations with tenants and the bleak future of mall business in Turkey. The commentator was Mr. Bendevi Palandoken, president of the TESK (Türkiye Esnaf ve Sanatkarlar Konfederasyonu).
As a true sign of the deficiencies in the involvement of public administration in managing the retail industry, Mr. Palandoken pointed out the “end of mall development” and the “tendency of retailers to choose street locations”. ( Aydınlık daily, p. 7, 27 Feb.).
Mall business in Turkey is truly at a turning point these days, 30 years after the construction of the first modern mall, Galleria Ataköy in İstanbul was started. The first phase of expansion during the 1990 s was interrupted by a financial crisis during 1999-2002. The second phase of expansion followed as a bigger step ( 2003-2013), challenged and interrupted by a growing economic/political/social turmoil. 2016 is a turning point for deepening of the challenge. 2017 should be a time for shaping the future.
The main items for agenda of organized retail business in Turkey should now be:
1. Redefine the role of business associations in organized retail as a whole, through new legislation, based on NAICS ( North American Industrial Classification System ) and ULI Classification of Tenants for Malls.
2. Develop and assist independent retailers to get organized, e.g. similar to Retail Owners’ Institute /USA on a regional basis throughout Turkey.
3. Develop academic institutions and professional training bodies to serve both “sides” of the retail business, so that “retail leaders of the future” can be found, motivated and trained.
4. Create at least 3 national centers in Turkey for “Retail Planning, Design and Development” where retail businesses can have a joint operational base with urban planning and development, local government and architectural design. Related professional bodies should set up a definite timeline of joint meetings/conferences and support for academic institutions and publications.
The future of mall development, therefore, is not “at the end”; it may be just beginning. The more organized retail can create the infrastructure for learning and human capital for retailers of the connected age to start up and grow, the potential for more and better mall development will be enhanced.
The current problem, referred to by Mr. Palandoken does exist, but not as he would like to see it: the real problem is for Turkey’s retail markets to prepare for a future based on scientific knowledge, retail math and human capital. In that sense, TESK is only an example of a body that was defined in the distant past and cannot understand and cope with the connected consumers of today and modern retail industry.