Tallinn is drowning in malls people don't care about

Estonians have more shopping centers per capita than any other European country. More malls are being built, but customers are staying away from the ones already open.

Marian Männi
Marian Männi Eesti Ekspress, Estonia
Source: Eesti Ekspress
Tallinn is drowning in malls people don't care about - NewsMavens
A Polish girl shops with her mother. Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

"It's like a city inside a building!" I told my friends.

It was the mid-1990s. Estonia had just broken free from the Soviet Union. I visited a shopping mall in Helsinki with my family. Itäkeskus (now Itis) was modern, bright and enormous. As a little girl, I thought I had seen the future.

Little did I know the future would one day make me dread the present.

Today, my home city of Tallin is full of shopping malls. And the race to build bigger, more exciting, more flashy malls doesn't seem to be slowing down. Three gigantic malls will open in Tallinn in the next couple of years. One of them, T1, will have a Ferris wheel inside.

Some hope that the tourists will fill the malls, or that customers will swap the older malls for new ones. But Estonians have grown tired of the excess. In the past couple of months, visits to malls dropped dramatically -- perhaps a sign that people have had enough.

When I lived in Amsterdam for a little while some years ago, I saw the future again. Small boutiques were opening and they were filled with people craving authenticity over cheap mass production. I can only hope this is what the future holds for Tallinn as well.


Details from the story:

  • Estonia has one of the highest retail space per capita figures in Europe.
  • The population of Tallinn is growing around half a percent a year, but retail space will grow by about 33 percent over next three years.
  • IKEA is planning to open a store in Tallinn next year.
  • Enterprise Estonia, a national institution, funded the building of a Ferris wheel in a shopping center.
  • More and more activities and experience-based facilities such as cinemas, gyms and fun fairs are brought into malls instead of goods and products.
  • Mall visits have dropped by 600,000 in the past several months.

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