The Slovenia Times

BTC v Centre



One obvious example is the surface area occupied by large shopping centres in the city's suburbs. The first reaction of any tourist who wandered off into BTC City - the largest of its kind, is likely to be in the form of a question, such as: "Why is it so big?" or simply "Where am I?". It is easy to get lost among the huge block-styled buildings that provide an amazing 365,300 m2 of space for shops, entertainment, businesses and sporting facilities, all of which combine to make it the biggest shopping and entertainment complex in Europe. Love It or Hate It! The phenomena of the large shopping malls began shortly after independence. If Slovenians once travelled to Austria and Italy to satisfy their shopping needs, they are now able to visit stores such as Newyorker, Bauhaus and Harvey Norman right here in Ljubljana. However, shopping centres quickly expanded to include entertainment and sporting facilities, such as multiplex cinemas, water parks and numerous other leisure-related activities, particularly those targetting youngsters, who have enthusiastically embraced the new consumer reality. Two young Czechs, who produced a documentary covering this topic, noted that the ex-socialist states absolutely love consumerism. In order to prove their point, they organized an advertising campaign that promoted the opening of a fictitious shopping centre. When they were forced to explain this to the milling throng that had gathered for the big occasion, they were lucky to escape with their lives. Others draw attention to the fact that these shopping and entertaining centres are steadily taking on many of the functions traditionally connected with a city centre. Since the days of yore, the city centre or agora has been a place where the citizenry gathered, shopped, did business and exchanged news, views and gossip. "The shopping centre has now become a space for different forms of communication and socialization," claims Matjaz Ursic from the faculty of Social Sciences. Especially among the young who like to adopt the mall identity. However, Ursic also claims, "It can not really replace a public space, since it is privately owned and therefore subject to certain rules of behaviour." Another concern relates to the commercial nature of the entertainment - they present features that sell, but the taste of the masses does not always meet the criterion of quality. Take the multiplex cinema Kolosej for example. The films they feature clearly differ from those that are screened in the few remaining cinemas in the city centre. While those in the centre concentrate on so-called art films that are distinguished by elaborate scripts and usually focus on social themes, Kolosej features films that are best described as industrial. If the city centre equates to quality, art and soul, then the shopping centre is more closely aligned to instant gratification, indulgence and pop culture. Love it or hate it, shopping centres have become an important aspect of everyday life. And What of the City Centre? Even though the city centre is losing its patrons to shopping centres, it is still the haven of culture, still has the most diverse nightlife and is still full of interesting shops, boutiques, restaurants and bars. It seems that the strategy of those associated with the city centre is to promote it as place that appeals to people who want their shopping to be an experience, a place where quality rules over quantity. However, since the substantially higher rents in the centre have caused many smaller boutique businesses to shift to the periphery, the variety on offer has been reduced. Even so, one can still find many interesting shops, especially in Stara Ljubljana (the old Ljubljana area situated under the castle), on the streets radiating from the Three Bridges - Copova, Wolfova, Trubarjeva - and along the banks of the Ljubljanica River. Perhaps the biggest problem of shopping in the city centre is the lack of parking spaces and a rather dysfunctional public traffic system, which does not satisfy the needs of modern urban dynamics. This is especially true, since the majority of people use their cars to go shopping. Save the City However, there are a number of initiatives that strive to revive and promote the city centre. A good example being the Moja trgovina (My Shop) campaign run by the Municipality of Ljubljana's Department of Economic Activities and Tourism. The campaign is now in its tenth year and entails evaluating all the small shops located in the city centre - 283 this year. This is done discretely by members of a six-member panel who visit each shop, usually alone, in the guise of demanding customers. The criteria taken into consideration when determining the award winners are the quality of products on offer, the presentation of the store and last, but not least, the obligingness of service. The stores are classified into different categories, with the best in each category being presented with the Moja trgovina award. This year's winners include: Boss (Clothing), Piranske Soline (Arts and Crafts), L'Occitane (Cosmetics), Malalalan (Jewellery), Kokoska (Household Accessories), Knjigarna Vale Novak (Books), Cokoladnica Cukrcek (Food), Nana (Fashion Accessories) and Optika Zajec (Optics). Even though shopping centres attract huge crowds of shoppers on a daily basis, they will never be able to recreate the aura of old city centres. Christmas lights hung amidst rows of huge department stores just don't have the same appeal as they do along the banks of Ljubljanica.


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