Last weekend I stayed in Madrid for some more fun explorations of my new city. Since the weather was nice, I wanted to get outside as much as possible. On Saturday, my friend Angie and I went to the Book Fair in el Parque del Buen Retiro after a going to an amazing Colombian restaurant (Sorry, I really missed plantain). The fair had almost every book you could ever dream of! There were over 350 booths and it was a little overwhelming to browse so many good books. I decided on a novel that I had seen someone my age reading on the bus. It was nice to see many people buying books in such a technological age. Personally, reading a physical book appeals to me more than a Kindle book or e-book.
On Sunday, I went to an open air market in the neighborhood of La Latina called El Rastro. The market spans multiple streets that are closed from 9AM-3PM on Sundays. Again, it is a completely overwhelming experience to see so many booths and not know where to start. My friend Trevor says you have to go to this market several Sundays because it is almost impossible to go through all the streets and routes in one day. I tried to stick to a plan and only buy what I needed, but of course I went overboard with buying new t-shirts, jewelry, and gifts for the family. As you go through the market, there are musicians along the sides and people dressed up asking for tips. The Edward Scissorhands guy gave me a little scare. The best part about this market is that some items are handmade and you can talk to the artisans in person! I have walked in these type of markets in the United States and in Colombia, but they are never this long and crowded.
Open-aired markets and semi-open air markets are very common in Spain. Their roots stem back many years from when the markets in plazas served as the older (and fresher) version of supermarkets. During our walking tour in Madrid, our tour guide mentioned the Mercado de San Miguel. This market began as a covered market in 1916 and almost survived the test of time. I say almost because in 1999, it was very close to going out of business due to the rise in competition from the modern supermarket. A society of gastronomic experts decided to officially buy the market and make it a unique gastronomic and cultural experience with high quality products. In the present day, the market is surrounded by tourists and locals who search for the best food products. According to our guide, you can try some amazing ham in el Mercado de San Miguel. My goal is to visit the market soon! I only got a chance to pass by it, but I still have some time.
Like el Mercado de San Miguel, the American mall is being threatened by the rise of online shopping. Of course it is convenient to shop online! I am a proud Amazon Prime member and have moments where I like my packages arrive to my door. As a marketer, I am responsible for getting consumers to buy more stuff. Before you blame American consumerism on my profession (and passion), think about how many jobs we could save if the malls of America stayed open and relevant. The gastronomic society in Madrid knew it was necessary to create an experience that encouraged people want to come to an older building in the middle of a plaza. Spanish consumers can easily go to their local Supercor or Mercadona to find some ham. The experience is what draws tourists and locals to pay more for the high quality products. The success of open air markets in Madrid makes me think that the bland formula for our malls will never survive. Marketers need to get creative to reinvent the American mall. In my opinion, we need to start with crafting a reason to leave your couch and go to a mall.
I’m traveling to Dublin this weekend to visit my friends Phoebe and Emily, IIP students in Ireland!