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How Retail Changed in the Balkans in 2020?

It might have seemed like a slow year, but many things have changed in retail since the pandemic started. This is especially true for retail in the Balkan region, as the e-commerce market here was always underdeveloped compared to the West.

In 2019 I spoke at a real estate conference in Belgrade, Rebec, and mentioned how important it is for shopping centers and retail parks to focus their attention on expanding their entertainment offer as I predicted that e-commerce would soon challenge traditional shopping in the region.

On that statement, I received from a retail park developer a comment “Don’t worry that won’t happen for a very long time, Serbs don’t like shopping online“.

Oh, how things can change in only a year…

They say that the biggest innovations and transformations happen during a crisis, and the retail market has certainly been hit hard in 2020. Now after a year, we can take a look back and see how much our retail market has evolved.

An Online Food Revolution

With the pandemic and lockdowns, online food delivery services blossomed in the Balkan region. Food delivery apps such as donesi.com, glovo.com, and wolt.com, expanded their restaurant offer to include the most popular restaurant chains such as McDonald’s, KFC, Starbucks.

Although food delivery services did exist before the pandemic, during this year more people have gotten used to ordering food online, and more popular restaurants have joined the delivery apps.

This means that our favorite food court anchors and even cafes are now online.

Online Malls 

Food delivery apps have gained such popularity this year that they have expanded their delivery service to assist retailers as well. For instance, glovo.com has created a page called Glovo Mall, which presents a variety of online shops.

In Serbia, through glovo.com you can now shop online for products from dm drogerie markt, Tehnomania, Idea supermarket, Dr Max Pharmacy, Vulkan bookstore, Lama sport supplement shop, and from many other retailers. Although most of the retailers presented already have their own online shops, the advantage of shopping through glovo.com is that the company delivers the ordered products to customers in less than an hour, in cities Belgrade, Pančevo, Novi Sad, Subotica, Kragujevac, and Niš.

Glovo operates also in neighboring countries across the Balkans, steadily influencing consumers to get used to shopping online and expecting a speedy delivery service.

Expansion of Online Shops

International and local retailers have launched new online shops and mobile apps across the region in 2020.

Most notably, Inditex Group expanded its online presence. It launched its online Zara shop in Bosnia and Herzegovina and expanded in Serbia with new online shops such as Stradivarius and Pull&Bear. The expansion of its online presence in this region was no surprise, as the company announced at the beginning of 2020 that it will permanently close down as many as 1,200 stores worldwide and refocus on boosting online sales.

Also, the largest regional multi-brand fashion retailer Fashion Company launched this year its new Fashion & Friends online store offering world-famous brands such as Guess, Diesel, Replay, Calvin Klein, Levi’s, Liu Jo, Tommy Hilfiger, and others.

We have also seen in Serbia the launch of the online shop LC Waikiki, and even cinema giant Cinneplexx started its ticket sales online.

Seeing that the big shopping center anchors are going online is a huge change in the retail market in this region.

Shopping Center Mobile Apps

The first shopping center mobile app in Serbia was launched last year by a new shopping center in Belgrade, Galerija Belgrade. The app is called Moj Beograd,  which allows visitors of the mall to collect points for their purchases and receive discounts, gifts, and invitations to events.

Galerija Belgrade is the largest shopping mall in the Balkan region, expanding across 300,000 sqm. Read more about the mall opening HERE.

The app is an example of how shopping centers are expanding online and becoming closer to their visitors. With this app, the shopping center management will be able to send to the customer’s personalized product recommendations and maintain customer loyalty with its points collection program.

This is just the beginning

As you can see, while we were lockdown a lot of things changed in the Balkan retail market in 2020. In my opinion, the region needed a shock to wake up retailers and shopping centers to modernize their businesses. The old belief „people in this region don’t like online shopping“  is no longer a valid excuse. As global events are changing our shopping habits, trends, and needs, retail will not be the same as before.

Get ready for virtual malls, delivery drones, robots, self-driving vehicles, and more… HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Nevena Kostichttp://www.retailsee.com
Nevena Kostic is a retail real estate expert that worked as a consultant since 2006 at Colliers International and King Sturge. In 2013 she founded retailsee.com, with an aim to promote real estate projects and retail companies to the international business community.
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