Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria as well as the largest city with a population of 1.42 million (19% of the national population). Data from the National Statistics Institute shows that Sofia has the highest rate of employment and the greatest number of economically active people. Demand is higher in comparison to other major cities in the country as many people from peripheral settlements commute to work in Sofia. The city is home to some 16 universities and is the economic hub for Bulgaria.
More than a third of the national economy is concentrated in the capital city. The difference in GDP per capita in Sofia and Bulgaria as a whole is staggering. The level in Sofia is more than twice the national average. The capital city has been consistently attracting the lion’s share of foreign direct investments. On a cumulative basis, Sofia has attracted more than 60% of FDI in non-financial enterprises.
It is also one of the most visited tourist destinations in Bulgaria alongside coastal and mountain resorts.
The first shopping centers appeared in 2006, and shortly afterwards several schemes followed. They are occupied predominantly by international fashion brands. Total space in shopping centers now amounts to around 301,000 sq.m. There is an ongoing trend for shoppers and retailers to move from high streets towards shopping centers.
Of particular interest to retailers in Sofia are the central business district, Vitosha Blvd., Graf Ignatiev Str. and Saborna Str. & Lege Str. The latter is occupied mainly by high-end luxury fashion brands. Vitosha Blvd. is the main high street, though over the recent years it has been affected by various improvement works. However the metro station located on the boulevard opened in August 2012 and the large part of the renovation was completed in 2013, With improved accessibility and urban environment pedestrian traffic also increased and retailers are back looking for locations.
Vitosha Blvd. is Sofia’s premier retail and now pedestrianised street, with the prime section is between the Presidency and the National Palace of Culture. It used to be occupied by brands from the middle- and high-price segment. However, in recent years new retail space added in shopping centers and metro station building works have pushed shoppers from Vitosha Blvd. to the shopping malls. Vitosha Blvd. has a new look and improved retail prospects after having seen the completion of the first two phases of its reconstruction in 2012 and 2013. The overall result were improved visitor numbers and stronger interest from retailers. Dining, food and beverage and specialty shops like pharmacies and optics were the first to move but they were soon followed by fashion and sports brands like Benetton, Sport Depot and Punto in the most recent quarters.
GRAF IGNATIEV STR
Graf Ignatiev Str. is the second prime retail street in the central district of Sofia city after Vitosha Blvd. It is occupied mainly by low-price brands. However, since it passes through the most central part of Sofia city center, a significant number of people walk through the street every day. Its most recent performance though has signaled the diverging fortunes of the two areas. While the renovated Vitosha Blvd. attracts much of the interest of retailers currently, Graf Ignatiev suffers from outflow of traditional occupiers. The area which is closer to Vitosha Blvd. in general has been less affected by this trend.
SABORNA STR., LEGE STR, ALABIN STR.
The area enclosed by Saborna Str., Lege Str. and Alabin Str. has emerged as a luxury location, occupied primarily by luxury retailers such as Ermenegildo Zegna, Marc Cain, Versace, Royal House, D&G, Cartier and Escada. The area is a destination for tourists and locals alike, as there are a number tourist attractions, institutions and offices in close proximity.
CITY CENTER SOFIA
City Center Sofia (CCS) was the first mall in Sofia, opened in 2006. Accessibility has been improved by a neighboring subway station. Most recently, it has successfully replaced the cinema operator with market newcomer CineGrand. While it has suffered from increased competition and losses of key tenants the project’s location the closest to the high street and venues such as the National Palace of Culture and the Hilton Sofia.
Serdika Center opened in 2010 with some 210 stores. Most of the tenants were new entrants to Bulgaria, such as Inditex Group, New Yorker and Peek & Cloppenburg. Retailers include Camper, Benetton, Reserved, Cropp, Geox, Deichmann and many others. It has attracted H&M, LC Waikiki, Spaggo and Cortefiel in the most recent year. Serdika Center is perceived mainly as a shopping destination as there is no entertainment area with a cinema. There are some food and beverage outlets including Costa Coffee, KFC and Subway.
Paradise Center opened in March 2013 and pre-leased flagship stores to a number of major European brands like Zara, Marks & Spencer and H&M, among others. The 80,000 sq m GLA centre is differentiated from the the existing shopping centres by the generous food, lifestyle, entertainment and service offering targeting not only weekend but also weekday visitors. Orange Fitness, the largest gym in the city with an olympic-size swimming pool, and the wide variety of restaurants cater to the white-collar population of the surrounding southern districts of the city, from the center through Lozenets, Ivan Vazov, the emerging residential areas and the affluent Vitosha neighborhoods. A number of international retailers have opened new concepts for Bulgaria. Collective, the high-end multibrand store, the Follie Follie accessories shop, Canali, Polo Ralph Lauren, Vogue, Dirk Bikkembergs, Versace Collection underpin the mall’s high-end profile. In addition there is an open-air amusement park, a 14-screen Cinema City including the first 4DX hall in Bulgaria and a multifunctional 2,000-seat Sofia Event Center hall for high-profile business, family and entertainment events. Puma launched its new store concept in 2013 and brands like Adidas and local sports retailer Sport Depot have also joined the scheme.
The Mall (total TBA 66,000 sq.m) also opened in 2010 about a month after Serdika Center. The Mall has 178 stores occupied by international brands (Bata, Aldo, Douglas, Esprit, Geox and many others), a Carrefour hypermarket, 10- screen Arena Cinema, various entertainment venues including Capella Play, a fitness centre, restaurants and cafes. It has also been recognized by new entrants to the market like LPP, LC Waikiki and Grupo Cortefiel.
MALL OF SOFIA
Mall of Sofia was one of the first shopping centres to open in Sofia and is located in a prime spot on Al. Stamboliiski Blvd. Its 130 retail stores are leased to well known international and Bulgarian brands, targeting the low- and middle-price segment, as well as fast food, Cinema City and the only IMAX in Sofia. H&M and Meli Melo Paris accessories store have been among the most notable and recent openings. This scheme has experienced relative stability in terms of tenant turnover without much competition in the broad CBD area and more specifically the western areas of the city.
SOFIA SOUTH RING MALL
Sofia South Ring Mall takes its name from the upgraded Southern bow of the capital city’s ring road. The project with 69.000 sq.m GLA is expected to open in the second half of 2014 and will be integrated with the already trading IKEA store (30,000sq.m). It has managed to attract big box retailers in the food, electronics and home appliances, furniture and do-it-yourself sectors such as Picadilly, Technomarket, Yavor and Mr. Bricolage. Cinegrand will be the cinema operator. Notos Galleries from Greece will open a 6,000-sq.m department store concept. Mango is said to be returning to Bulgaria with a store in Sofia South Ring and H&M is also expected.
After construction works on the shopping center with 25,000 sq m of GLA resumed in the first half of 2012 the developer has announced the latter half of 2014 as a target period for opening. Located at the entrance of Lyulin, Sofia’s most populous district with above 100,000 residents, and right on a subway train station it will face limited competition in the Western areas of the city. A number of local and international retailers are among the center’s tenants. Their offer will add to an already developed retail cluster along the Tsaritsa Yoana boulevard, characterized mainly by big box food, electronics and furniture stores.
Opened in late 2012, Bulgaria Mall was the first of the third wave of shopping centers. Anchored by Carrefour, Arena Cinema and H&M it has also laid the grounds for some prominent brand debuts, including Debenhams and Desigual. Along with Paradise Center and the new Sofia Ring Mall it forms a kind of a shoppers’ Bermuda triangle in the southern part of Sofia where the most of the up-and-coming middle-class neigborhoods are located.
This new project will add to competition in the western city areas. It benefits from a location right on the ring-road and hence fast links to Sofia metropolitan area towns like Bankya, Bozhurishte, Kostnibrod and Pernik. The project will primarily serve the Lyulin area with a brand new Arena Cinema, the first Carrefour hypermarket in this part of the city as well as Zora electronics store and the third Decathlon in Sofia.
|KEY AREAS / STREETS/SHOPPING CENTERS||CONSUMER PROFILE||MAJOR RETAILERS PRESENT||NEW ENTRANTS||TYPICAL RENT FOR UNIT OF 200 SQM (€/SQM/YEAR)||RANGE OF UNIT SIZES (SQM)|
|Vitosha Blvd||High-Income, Middle-class||Zara, Benetton, Orsay, Max Mara||tH&M, Sport Depot||480||10 - 1,200|
|Graf Ignatiev Str.||Low-income, Middle-class, Families, Teenagers||Orange Center, Carrefour, KFC||High level of tenant turnover||360||5 - 1,000|
|Saborna Str., Lege Str., Alabin Str.||High-income||Ermenegildo Zegna, Versace, Cartier, D&G||840||30 - 300|
|Serdika Center||Families, Middle-class Teenagers||Piccadilly, Inditex Group, LPP, H&M, New Yorker, Hippoland, Intersport, Humanic, Deichmann, Technopolis, LC Waikiki, P&C||Cortefiel||N/A||30 - 2,200|
|The MALL||Families, Middle-class Teenagers||Inditex Group, Carrefour, Humanic, P&C,||Reserved. LC Waikiki, Cortefiel||N/A||20 - 10,000|
|Mall of Sofia||Families, Middle-class Teenagers||Piccadily, Esprit, Intersport, Benetton, HAPPY, Cinema City, Spaghetti Company, Terranova||H&M, Meli Melo Paris||N/A||30 - 2,000|
|CCS||Middle-class||Piccadily, Oviesse, Marks and Spencer, Costa Coffee||CineGrand||N/A||30 - 2,000|
|Paradise Centre||High-Income||Carrefour, Technopolis Kenvelo, New Yorker, L. C. Waikiki, Deichmann, Sephora, DM, Andrew’s Fashion, Desizo Monni, Imaginarium, Ciela, Comsed, , Sport Vision, , Collective, Sport Depot, Cinema City, Playground, Walltopia, Sofia Event Center||Versace Collection, Sport Depot, Adidas, Puma||N/A||2013 Pipeline|
|Sofia South Ring Mall||Ikea (already trading), Picadilly, Technomarket, Yavor and Mr. Bricolage, Cinegrand||Notos Galleries, H&M, Mango||N/A||2014 Pipeline|
|Mega Mall||DM, , Impulsive, Megasport, Fashion Spirit Sports, Subway, Paolo Botticelli||Billa, H&M, LPP, Deichmann||N/A||2014 Pipeline|
|Plaza West||Carrefour, Arena Cinema, Zora, Homey, Decathlon||N/A||N/A||2014 Pipeline|
Data as of May 2014
The city centre of Sofia has a broad mix of food & beverage outlets to appeal to all tastes and budgets. There are around 500 food and beverage establishments in Sofia, among them restaurants of European and international cuisine, bistro-type restaurants, pizzerias, brasseries, Irish pubs, enotecas and beer houses, , eco- and vegetarian food restaurants, Viennese saloons and sushi-bars. Food & beverage operators form an important part of the tenant mix within shopping centres in and around Sofia, as well as in the city centre and across the city in its various residential districts.
All the major international fast food operators are present in Sofia, including McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King, Domino’s Pizza and Dunkin Donuts.
Specialist coffee shops have traditionally been popular in Bulgaria. Starbucks and Costa Coffee represent the international coffee shop chains. The Onda chain of specialist coffee shops was acquired by Lavazza.
Smaller domestic companies such as Fancy, La Pastaria and Verdi have also developed chains of outlets across Bulgaria. Chains such as Happy are very successful and the forming of new chains is starting, mostly of pizza and pasta restaurants, which are traditionally popular among Bulgarians.
|KEY AREAS||CONSUMER PROFILE||FOOD & BEVERAGE OPERATORS INCLUDING||RENT FOR 350 SQM UNIT (€/SQM/YEAR)|
|Shopping Centers||Middle-class, Teenagers, Families||McDonald’s, KFC, HAPPY, Fancy, Subway, Burger King||€540 food court outlets€204 Standalone/inline F&B outlets|
|CBD||Middle-class||KFC, McDonald’s, Fancy, Subway, Nedelya Pastry, Lavazza Café, Burger King||€600 cafes and fast food operators in smaller units €144 Restaurants|
|Residential Districts||Middle-class,||HAPPY, Nedelya Pastry, Victoria, Spaggo||--|
Data as of May 2014
ROSEN GENEVHead of Retail Space
Forton, Cushman & Wakefield Alliance Member
47A Tsarigradsko Shose Blvd.
1124 Sofia, Bulgaria
Tel: +359 2 805 90 10
Mob: +359 2 805 90 10