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Domestic Commerce: Out of City Retail Parks


As per the Bureau of Statistics Economic Survey 2018-19, wholesale and retail services contribute around 18 percent of the GDP, almost as much as agriculture. It still has great potential for growth. A number of interventions can accelerate this growth.

While export-oriented growth and foreign exchange reserves are vital for the economy, a much less emphasized & discussed sector is that of domestic commerce. A country with more than 220 million people offers a great opportunity for producing and selling domestically that would lead to value addition in services and job creation.

Success of shopping malls like The Forum, Dolmen mall, Centaurs, Packages & Emporium, etc in the large cities of Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and now even in smaller towns[1] (For example the Mall of Mandi Bahuddin… a 14 story complex in a town of less than half a million) is a proof of the growing demand for this kind of ‘shopping / eating / entrainment combo’. However, almost all of these malls are located on the most precious commercial city center areas, mostly occupied by top brands, need to be air conditioned and have challenges of car parking & congestion in the neighborhoods. Let’s take this ‘shopping / eating / entrainment combo’ to the open areas.

Pakistan is blessed with at least three strong factors for rapid growth in domestic commerce. One, a very large consumer base, 220 m people, with at least 50% living in rapidly growing urban areas. Secondly, for most regions of the country, population centers are located close by; forming clusters. The 3rd factor is the 2000 km of functional Motorways & another 2000 km in the pipeline. These 3 factors, put together, make a strong case for a flourishing opportunity of domestic retail. Let’s put these factors together.

The motorways’ and the cities & towns around interchanges offer a golden opportunity for establishing ‘Out of City Retail Parks’. The US, UK and many other countries have developed such parks and offer good attractions, especially over weekends. Compared to the west, we still have an advantage of the higher population densities and a large potential to reach a saturation point.

Cribbs Causeway Retail Park; Bristol UK[2]