There is a festive feeling in the air with anticipation of renewal that the New Year brings. No doubt the decorative lighting and cultural programmes at the shopping malls around Addis Abeba are contributing to the holiday spirit and to the increased shopping activity that goes with the annual approach of the New Year. HIDAT ARKEBE, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER steps into the world of beautifully lit malls and explores with those who make decisions about holiday decorations as well as with shoppers, how the lighting impacts both their mood and their spending.
As Ethiopia prepares to usher in the New Year, 2008 by the Ethiopian calendar, some of the high rise buildings of Addis Abeba are decorated with imported and expensive tube lights, even as many are shining with Christmas lights.
The lighting system that is around the entire building of Edna Mall Matti Multiplex is a typical example of this case. It was installed for the New Year three years ago, and it has been in place since then, regularly shining from Friday to Sunday. Come holidays, however, the whole building will be shining for the entire week.
Buildings so elaborately lit, typically have many businesses inside them, many decorated with interactive arts, balloon twisters, flowers and entertaining programmes like music and fashion shows. They are made to look like that to also attract and satisfy customers.
Yodit Ashenafi, a visitor to Matti Multiplex, says she likes the building because of its unique lighting system. For her, it is the perfect place to take all her family members for fun. Despite the long queues that she does not like during holidays, she will take her sons to enjoy the different types of games and activities, hopefully with some sort of new features, for the New Year. To the best of Yodit’s observation, Matti Mulitplex and other buildings in the area attract a crowd because of the lighting they use.
The Matti Multiplex lighting called LG LED, is imported from Dubai. It was tailor-made to the building after an expert from the Dubai supplier visited here to take measurements, says Kidane Abebe, the electrician at Matti Multiplex, who spoke to Fortune in the office of the manager of the building. It took eight people one week to install the system, Kidane said.
The lighting system covers the Edna Mall building from the second floor up to the seventh floor, with 20 pieces of 15-metre long tube lights. This light is different from other types of lighting, Kidane says, because heat and weather do not affect it, and it retains the original colour and brightness for a long time.
Internationally famous spectacularly lit buildings include the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and the Empire State Building in New York. In Addis Abeba, lights are yet to become very popular, with the most commonly seen decorations being coloured ribbons and balloons. However, other buildings decked out with holiday lights are Zefmesh Mall, Dembel City Center (which is also lit at weekends), and Friendship Mall. This New Year holiday, they will all welcome their customers with beautiful lights. However, there are also other buildings that are opting for other forms of decorations.
Webeshet Abera, marketing officer at Zefmesh Mall at Megenagna, told Fortune that the New Year festivities are costing them 400,000 Br for a string of programmes they intend to have for 30 days. The decorations are bought on the local market. As part of the programme, stores in the G+7 building are offering as much as 35pc to 50pc discounts. Webeshet expects an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 people are expected to visit the mall over the 30-day period of the holiday season.
Lidiya Getachew is a frequent shopper at Zefmesh, even if she does not like the loud music, which blares on holidays. For a regular like her, who is attracted by the presence of different shops with different items under same roof, the discounts and the decorations are further incentives, she explained to Fortune.
At another shopping hub, Dembel City Centre located on the busy Bole Road, employee, Biniam Ahmed, shared his views on the 2,000m LED lights imported from China two years ago, at a cost of 60,000 Br. He feels that the lights are important to share the holiday spirit with people and to attract them to the mall.
“If the building were just for offices, we would not have put this much effort into decorating it”, explains Biniam.
The coffee ceremonies are something interesting at Dembel, where approximately 7,000 to 10,000 people shop every day.
All the shopping malls in Addis have a lot to offer for the New Year. Ayele Kidu, a customer at Friendship Mall, located near the Bole International Airport on African Avenue, loves shopping for holidays in the big malls because they entertain him with cultural shows and music performances. One of his favourite events last year was the violin performance he saw there.
Mafi Building, where holiday discounts range from 10pc to 60 pc, has spent 150,000 Br in decorations, says Abiy Tekol, general services manager. The cost is shared by the other businesses housed in the building.
The real discounts offered there are decided after discussion by the building committee and shops, Abiy said.
Last year there were circus and mascot shows, which had attracted a lot of people, he said. This year, they are avoiding that because of the security threat. The crowd that gathered for the entertainment was also an unwelcome presence for the customers, he added. The building is now decorated with balloons and yellow ribbons.
“We are trying to keep it simple this year,” Abiy said.
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