What do Paris Hilton, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Snoop Dogg and the Russian city of Mytischi Have in Common?

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Mytischi is a suburb of Moscow.  And with a population of a bit over 200,000 and convenient public transportation lines into the capital, much of the city works in local manufacturing or makes a daily commute into Moscow.

One of the surface observations that many foreigners make when they come to Moscow is the number of malls and their size.  Although mall retail shopping seems to be on the decline in America, malls in Moscow seem to be popping up like mushrooms.

And repeatedly, I see a mall and think that it is unsustainable, only to visit it a few months later and find it so packed that I have to fight for a parking spot.  Especially on the weekend.  As a matter of fact, on some Saturdays the Moscow traffic is barely distinguishable from weekdays, and as taxi drivers tell me, this is simply shopping traffic.

A few years back, I saw yet another large mall being built, this time in Mytischi.  The name of the mall was to be Июнь (June), and to be quite frank, I again couldn’t imagine it being filled with shoppers.  And again, I was proven dead wrong.

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The June shopping mall in Mytischi

But the owners of the June shopping mall know the demographic of their potential clients, so they decided to pull in some star power to light the flames of capitalistic euphoria.

With that, on the day of the opening of the mall, Jean-Claud Van-Damme made an appearance.  Paris Hilton and Snoop Dogg followed in the footsteps of the legendary Belgian action hero.

By the way, props to Snoop Dogg for tipping his hat to Russian cultural dress without compromising his own message.  Seriously, check out his clothes.  They are fantastic.  Snoop Dogg, if you’re reading this, please send me those clothes.  In exchange, I will make a donation to the charity of your choice in your name.

I find it intriguing that these Western pop stars attracted such an audience in this Moscow suburb’s mall.  If I remember correctly, you could enter a VIP-fan zone when Paris Hilton came if you had receipts from that day from 5 different stores in the mall.

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This banner remind shoppers of Paris Hilton’s visit to Mytischi

As one European said to me not long after his arrival in Moscow:  “This is unbridled capitalism!”.  Indeed, the malls seem full on weekends, and world famous pop stars are visiting these retail shrines of free market economy.

I have to wonder what kind of pop star would motivate me to obtain receipts 5 stores in one mall in one day.  But in any case, maybe the dying American mall complex can take a few notes from its Russian counterparts on how to create a little more excitement.  Maybe we could arrange for some Russian pop stars to visit an American mall as part of an international pop star exchange program and thus kindle the dying embers of the likes of Sears and KMart.

It will be interesting to see how far the retail building boom in the Moscow area will last.  And probably due to my age, I will avoid any shopping when a pop star is in town.  But that’s okay, the malls know their target demographic.

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