Observations of a Non-Shopaholic

Having my family here forced me to look on Lebanon with a fresh pair of eyes, making me realize things that I had previously overlooked.  This was partly due to the fact that my Grandmother is a Grade A Shopaholic.  Not so much in the traditional sense (she found Beirut Souks absolutely soulless), but in the sense that whenever she travels she loves to go into local handicraft and artisan stores to see what trades/skills the locals are best at.

Since I didn’t know where any of these stores were located, we literally had to go door to door until we found something she liked.  (Near torture for me, a person who only likes to go shopping when she knows exactly what she’s looking for and exactly what store she’s going to find it in, and who absolutely adores the convenience of online shopping.)

While engaging in this selfless activity 😉 in Hamra, Mar Elias, and Verdun I realized something about the stores in these areas..They almost all sell the exact same thing!  Nowhere is worse than Mar Elias though..you will walk down an entire block seeing identical stores (down to the sqm), directly adjacent to each other, and selling the exact same merchandise!  This phenomenon makes for a rather frustrating shopping experience if I do say so myself, and one that I do not entirely understand.  ‘Jumping on the bandwagon,’ is nothing new, and I’m well aware of that..but seeing all of these stores standing right next to each other, unabashedly selling the same things is new to me!  Don’t they know they would be better of varying their merchandise or establishing an entirely new concept?  I really should have questioned the store owners on why they choose this as their sales strategy, and how they differentiate themselves from their neighbor (quite literally).

But when I think about it, in a country where women rush to get the same nose jobs, men rush to get the same luxury vehicles, and everyone rushes to be seen in the same brands and at the same places..this phenomenon might just make sense.

Do you have any idea why this is so?  Is this what competition has come to these days?

Mar Elias Lebanon

Boots galore in Mar Elias

Mar Elias Lebanon

Animal pattern is definitely IN in Mar Elias

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8 Comments

Filed under life in Lebanon

8 responses to “Observations of a Non-Shopaholic

  1. Danielle you pulled it off once again 🙂
    Those stores are right next to my apartment.
    I cannot explain why and how they do it, but when there’s a demand there’s a supply! and girl people/women by this stuff…

    Personally, I never bought anything from both stores, but there are some cool stuff in Mar Elias…
    But Yes they all sell the same stuff- that’s for sure.

    Haha…this post should demotivate some tourists who are considering to shop in Lebanon 😛 (hint hint)

  2. Joelle Eid

    I love this post! Because I realized not too long ago that when something is in style in Lebanon, the whole country is rockin’ it! Unlike here, where there is different styles/types of people, there are no labels in Lebanon. (Generally speaking…)

  3. DrFaDi

    hahahaha
    completely true
    the animal pattern store might perfectly be a halloween outfit store 😛

  4. 😮 animail print is in, but not THAT animal print, Yikes!!!
    I know exactly how your grandma felt, your hear the name “Beirut Souks” and you expect to see a souk with some culture, arts, traditional things… Not a bunch of high end stores that cater to the super rich tourists and a very small percentage of the lebanese population. But then again its in downtown so everythin is on the expensive side.

  5. Samer B.

    Easy, they have no clue what marketing plans mean 🙂

  6. Youssef Chaker

    Unfortunately this is something I hoped would not happen to this extent, but the erosion of the Lebanese culture is going at a fast rate. People from all over the world crave Lebanese food but in Beirut you get more McDonnalds and Starbucks and less of the authentic stuff. And the same thing is happening in the Downtown area and namely in the Beirut Souks. It seems that some Lebanese are trying to live the ‘Beirut is the Paris of the east’ idea way too much. So there’s a lot of mimicking and very little originality. You have to get out of Beirut to maybe find some authentic Lebanese stuff, probably in Jbeil or some place where preserving the culture is a priority. Unfortunately there is no competition when it comes to these things. The suppliers to all these stores are probably the same people and they hold a monopoly over them. There’s a handful of families in Lebanon that hold the exclusive rights to clothing brands and then everything else is most probably some sort of black market or ‘pirating’. So that’s why you won’t find much variety.

    • Mom

      To follow up on the fast food chain reference, I was astounded by the number of Dunkin Donuts locations that I saw … more even than where I live in South Florida. I sincerely hope that the Lebanese can hold on to their culinary traditions and not be totally sucked into the American fast food abyss. Then the problems of obesity will surely also arrive and instead of all those sexy show windows for the fashion there are going to be stores catering to overweight people, not to mention the health issues that will ensure. I have a feeling it is the atmosphere of the American food chains that is appealing more than the food. Are there many local establishments that are reasonably priced and that offer a similar “feel” and the ability to hang out with friends, go online etc. If not, perhaps that’s an idea for a budding entrepreneur!!

      • Youssef Chaker

        I wish I knew what the appeal is. I don’t share that with my fellow Lebanese. I, for one, refuse to go to fast food places or the likes of Dunkin. I know that Caffe Yunis for example offers a good place to hang out and free internet. And there are others, at least in the Hamra area. Maybe because they are not a chain and don’t exist in multiple areas, it becomes easier to go to Dunkin since it’s already known what they offer vs trying to figure out what each block or each city has and where the best place there would be.
        The other part of it is the fact that business are not targeting Lebanese customers. They are mostly aiming towards the rich arabs or western tourists. So they provide them with what they are most likely to gravitate towards. As a Lebanese person, and I share this feeling with all if not most of my friends, I do not feel that the downtown area, for example, is targeting me as a consumer. It may not be sustainable, in terms of profit margins, to cater to the Lebanese common masses.

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