About three years ago, I took a class on Eastern Europe. I remember writing a paper about how this corner of the world was becoming more and more attractive to foreign investors. Skilled laborers and resources come relatively cheap compared to the US and Western Europe, and people are eager to take advantage of the new technologies offered by the west.
Yesterday, I stumbled upon a blog written by an American expat in Poland that I thought really validated some of the predictions i remember making in my paper. He made the comment that just 5 years ago he was easily the richest man on the tram. However, today he wasn’t sure he could say the same. in 2009, Poland is far from the poor, drab country Americans tend to think of it as, especially in the urban areas. Instead, cities like Krakow are lively, flourishing and promise a bright future.
As I mentioned in a much earlier post, I was really surprised the first time I stepped into the sparkly new Galeria Krakowska, the mall in the city center. It is huge, bigger than any mall I’ve been to in the US. With three floors packed with over 200 shops, it is a testament to the fact that, despite many of their relatively modest lifestyles, Krakowians are getting much richer than they might have you believe.
There are (that I know of) five malls in Krakow. There’s one in Kazimierz, one in the town center, and two located on the outskirts of town. Now, there’s a brand new one just opened in the past month, transformed from an abandoned chemical plant in Podgórze. This mall complex, grossing 234 thousand square meters-and still growing, it won’t be completed until 2012-is the biggest mall in Poland, and comparable with some of the biggest and best malls in the US and UK (according to Wikipedia, the Mall of America has 230 thousand square meters available as retail space when you leave out the theme parks and aquariums and whatnot).
all of these malls have opened in the last 10 years. Krakowska in 2006, Kazimierz in 2005…the other two I don’t remember but certainly not before 2000.
Clearly, the Poles are becoming the world’s nouveau riche. They have money to spend, and businesses are embracing the opportunity to invest and open franchises in Poland. Everything is sparkly and fresh….and yes, supersized. Such consumerism and luxury is no longer limited to the Americas and the West…and those communist days of walking into a store and being greeted with empty shelves are long gone.
Eastern Europe has a bright future and a lot of potential. It’ll be especially interesting to see how things change in the next years and with the introduction of the Euro.
Kudos to you for making things happen, Poland 🙂