In early November, Brankov bridge in Belgrade was almost blocked because of shopping. Over 67,000 people came to Grazia Shopping Night at the largest shopping center in Serbia from all parts of the capital city. On that Friday, many companies that have their outlets in Usce set the new sales records and increased their turnovers by over 300%. There were queues in front of more than 150 stores. In addition to discounts for shopaholics, the organizers also prepared surprises for the youngest visitors, the lovers of good food, music, the seventh art, astrology and fitness. The after-shopping party was on until the early morning hours, while famous actors, singers and DJs were responsible for good entertainment.
Dr. Nikolaos Dimitriadis, one of the persons to "blame" for an unusual shopping experience, has got only positive criticism, while some new brands have expressed interest in renting an outlet in the Center. The Marketing Director of the largest shopping center in Serbia reveals at the start of an interview for eKapija that the secret of success lies in a well-chosen month, thoroughly planned PR activities, a synergy of ideas and, primarily, an excellent cooperation with Attica Media publishing company, the author of the Grazia Shopping Night project. Dimitriadis points out that the life of the shopping center must be taken care of every single day because the customers in Serbia have not yet got used to a concept of shopping that is different than the traditional one.
- The history of shopping centers is very long and they have become an integral part of everyday life and culture of citizens world wide. Situation in Serbia is a bit different because the real shopping centers market exists since only few years ago. In Germany, for example, this shopping concept is presence since the early 1960's. That is why we should not surprised by the information that over 50% of the population in Serbia have never visited a shopping center. Most customers still prefer small boutiques, while our primary target group - young professionals, like to buy staff outside Serbia. That is why our real competitors are not shopping centers in Belgrade, but those in Greece, Italy, Hungary, Germany and other countries of the world. Our primary goal is to attract new buyers and show them all the advantages of Usce. I believe we can attract them with a good offer, quality and unusual entertainment, and competitive prices - Dimitriadis says for eKapija.
Our interlocutor is of the opinion that shopping centers in Serbia should not fight for the same piece of cake, but put effort into making that cake larger, that is, attracting a larger number of people who enjoy shopping in shopping centers.
Walking at the time of the crisis
- At the time of the crisis, people do not have money, but they do have time. That is both an opportunity and a threat for the business. Visitors look at shop windows more than usual and situation is the same as in all centers in the region. However, we should not forget that about 50% of shopping is an impulsive shopping, that is, procurement of things we have not planned to buy, which we are attracted to. Of course, nobody would buy a TV set in that case, but they purchase a T shirt, a vase, or a pair of shoes instead. That is why I do not think that the statement that people are just walking is bad. What we are trying to do is to increase the number of people who are coming to the center, hoping that they will spend their money at one of the stores in Usce although they have not planned to do that - Dimitriadis comments on the life of the center at the time of the crisis, pointing out that a feeling of the easiness of shopping and a pleasantly spent time in the center is the primary goal of Usce.
Who shops the most in Serbia
The Usce Shopping Center Marketing Director says that the customers in Serbia are not much different than their "counterparts" around the world.
- Every buyer always combines several criteria before deciding what to spend his money on. Each decision includes rational and emotional elements. The rational element of the decision consists of several questions: "Have I found what I've been looking for?", "Is that the price I can pay?", "Are these the brands I like?". The emotional side of the decision is the feeling of pleasure in shopping, comfort and fun provided by the center, the way in which articles are offered, as well as atmosphere in the center.
The key target group of Usce Shopping Center includes young professionals who, unfortunately, mainly spend their money for clothing and other personal items abroad. The most frequent costumers are young business women and young family men.
- Women are shopping more frequently, but they spend less money, mainly about 3,000 dinars, while families spend the most, but they rarely visit the center. Teenagers are not spending much, up to 1,000 dinars, which is reasonable because they usually spend their pocket money. Well-educated wealthy people older than 50 do not have a habit to go to shopping centers. They prefer small boutiques and find shopping centers confusing as they are crowded with too many people and events at the same moment. That is why there should also be an offer for them and a proposal for shopping on more peaceful days such as Tuesday and Wednesday.
The interlocutor of eKapija says that he expects a large number of visitors at the time of the New Year holidays since the average number of visitors last year was 70,000 a day.
- This year we have invested significantly more money in the New Year decoration than last year. Celebration of the New Year and Christmas holidays around the world starts sooner over the last few years. Shopping centers want to increase the sales during the months that are not that popular for shopping so that start promotions, put decorations and organize various events few months in advance. Shopping centers in London are decorated already in early October.
Everybody would like to have a store in Usce
Usce Shopping Center, with about 50,000 square meters of commercial space and 150 retail-catering facilities (stores, cafes, restaurants and newsstands), operates with 99% of its capacities. Our interlocutor says that there are no empty outlets in this center because even those that are currently closed are in the phase of preparation or reconstruction. Usce has brought 20 new international brands to our market, while certain outlets attracted five or six global brands, the leaders in their respective industries.
- We have two lists. One of them is the list of tenants who would like to open a store in Usce, while the other list includes the brands we would like to bring here. If you ask customers, most of them would like to see an H&M store in Usce. On the other hand, large brands want to know how many people visit Usce on a daily basis, and the numbers are on our side because we sometimes even have up to 70,000 visitors in a single day. Such information automatically attracts companies and that is why we often hear our potential tenants say: "If you want to be in Belgrade, then you must be in Usce".
Dimitriadis says that there are some tenants that have left Usce and that it is a normal process in this business. There have also been those that moved to another outlet, expanded the retail space, changed the concept of their boutiques.
- We are doing our best to be a maximally flexible and open system and we will always find the best solution for our tenants. Of course, it sometimes happens that we are not able to fulfill every single wish of theirs.
ID card of Usce Shopping Center
Usce is the largest shopping center in Serbia and the region. A total of 150 stores, restaurants, bars, playhouses, a supermarket, a multiplex cinema with 11 halls, and a bawling room are situated on six levels and occupy 50,000 square meters of commercial space.
While the grown-ups are shopping, their children are taken care of by professional animators in the playhouse for kids. Once they finish the shopping, visitors can refresh themselves at one of comfortable cafes or restaurants and enjoy various specialties and outstanding service. Over 2,000 people work at Usce.