The Malls are empty shopping palaces, decorated and lit, but lacking buyers

“It’s like the Lebanese economy in miniature – the lights are on but no one’s home,” one shopper told Annahar.
by TK Maloy and Ghadir Hamadi

14 December 2019 | 11:01

Source: by Annahar

The curtain drawn, stage open, the players are not yet arrived.... (Annahar)

Annahar is publishing a three-part series this Holiday season that covers the street-level economy: such as boutiques, hair salons, phone stores, gizmo shops, toy stores, mini-marts, and other shops.

The second part of the series, published this Friday, will look into the consumer activity at Beirut’s many upscale, sprawling shopping malls, usually hubs of much consumer activity this time of year.

Lastly in the series, is the enduring Lebanese tradition of family and friend feasting this time of year, wherein Annahar talks with families and others about their social plans at the table this year.

BEIRUT: It is Friday night at both City Mall and ABC Dbayeh and each is not only relatively empty of shoppers, but the few who are there are largely oblivious to buying anything in favor of browsing despite the trials of the helpful sales clerks.

As if they are building magic spells, most of the clerks are mindlessly setting up various holiday decorations with the hope of management perhaps “that shoppers will soon be there.”

Annahar will pay another call next to other malls as well - each day the deadline grows closer - to see if anyone has opted to stock up on presents.

Correspondents spoke with Mona about her holiday plans.

“There’s no way we are canceling Christmas, I’ve set up the tree weeks ago and decorated the house,” she said. 

Asked about all this effort, Mona said that while she has two grown children, she “just wants things to stay where they are…like each year.”

She thinks the economic problems will be over in a couple of months.This view is not shared by other shoppers who look down the empty shopping aisle with what’s known as the “thousand-yard stare” common among those suffering a kind of shell shock.

“Our family is cutting back on presents, feasting, and decorations – who knows maybe we’ll find the real meaning of the holidays instead…..appreciating what we have-frankly I would be happy with a big bowl of Kishek soup like Teta used to make,” said a shopper leaving the mall.

As a parting sentiment, the shopper said that “next year is forecasted to be worse; inflation, employment cuts, salary cuts…”

The parking lot is mostly empty, nor is anyone toting boxes of presents out – maybe when the sale prices hit 80 percent and more, inventory will start to move.

“I never feel like these sale prices are real,” said Omar, a recent engineering graduate who was out shopping with his family, “Lebanese retailers really hate to part with a buck.”

Maria Khoury, a shopper at ABC Verdun and mother of three, insists that she isn’t spending a single lira during her time at the mall with her kids.

“We are just here to walk around and enjoy the festive ambiance,” she insisted.

Photo taken in ABC Verdun. 

Fady, leaving the City Mall, turns around and said over his shoulder to correspondents, “It’s like the Lebanese economy in miniature – the lights are on and no one’s home.”

Dany Hirmas, a shopper at ABC Ashrafiyeh, told Annahar that he’s home for the holidays from Dubai, and is spending as he usually does.

“There certainly is a sharp increase in the prices, but since I’m only here for 3 short weeks, I might as well spend every penny I have,” he said with a laugh.

Others believed that spending wisely is the only way to bear this crisis.

“I usually buy three new outfits every holiday season, but this year I’m only buying one to wear on New Year’s Eve,” said Dalia Husseiny, another shopper.

Hussein Hammoud, a shopper at a local clothing boutique in Dahye, told Annahar that going out this holiday season, and just kicking back and relaxing, after “this harsh year,” is exactly what he needs to start 2020 on a more positive note.

“Lebanon faced a series of political and security problems this year,” he said. “However, the Lebanese are resilient, and just like we have surpassed adversities in the past, we will get through this one too."

Although some of the Lebanese are holiday shopping, they still have fears of what tomorrow might bring.

Noor Al Zein, who was buying matching dresses from Dahye to her newborn twin daughters was excited to spend the holiday season with her little family, yet still feels like her daughters’ future seems bleak.

“I’m trying not to think of that right now, I just want to enjoy the holiday season for the first time with my husband and newborns,” she said.

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