Some people say Wal-Mart, others say Carrefour, but Iran is saying Hyperstar. Hyperstar, found in western Tehran, is Iran’s first large U.S.-style supermarket, financed by a businessman from the United Arab Emirates. It is becoming incredibly successful with an average of 15,000 customers a day! Shoppers consist of mainly middle-class residents who show an increasing interest in shopping and traveling.
Over the last 10 years, satellite TV, internet, and encouragement from the government to embrace individualism and change, has caused Iranians to improve their behavior. What’s wrong with that? Well, some critics believe that changes in behavior show signs of surrendering to consumerism, therefore changing the values of the country and its people. Many people are working much more to support their “new” lifestyle, and are sacrificing time with their family, friends, and their religion.
Some argue that Iranian citizens are working themselves to death to live above their means. If that weren’t enough already, the gap between the rich and poor is getting larger. Many are picking up an extra job or two so they can still visit the megastore every week. With prices being cheaper at Hyperstar than at local supermarkets, the trip not only offers a wider variety of products, but saves shoppers money as well. To some, the extra work is worth it.
Yet, even when concerns of the changing lifestyles and behaviors of middle-class Iranians remain, the government doesn’t seem worried to the point of making any drastic changes. In fact, the government is promoting spending by using part of the oil windfall to finance imports. Last year, roughly $85 billion was spent to finance imports!
Which is better? Work harder to keep up with a “new” lifestyle and miss out on the important things like friends, family, and religion? Or cut back on weekly shopping outings at one of these megastores, and enjoy the things that mean the most? I guess that is up to each individual.