The Akasya shopping center on the Asian side of Istanbul is built with the rich inhabitants of the city in mind. The local stores of Brooks Brothers, Armani and Burberry can only be found at certain locations in the city.
When it was opened in 2014, a metro stop and a special city bus were opened nearby, allowing shoppers to reach their 257 stores more easily. Inside, on the first floor, the Apple Store occupies the best positioned space in the mall.
On Tuesday, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a boycott of American electronics in a spit with Washington, thanks in part to the ongoing detention of Washington's American clergyman Andrew Brunson. The president selected the Apple iPhone by name in his fighting speech.
The call for boycott follows the increasing concerns about the Turkish economy that the lira alone is losing a third of its value against the US dollar this year.
But if Mr. Erdogan visited the Apple Store in the Akasya shopping mall last Thursday, he might have been very disappointed. The special "Today at Apple" department of the store is full of customers and interested viewers.
This weekend the store will hold 90 minutes of information sessions on how to use "shadows and light" when photographing with your iPhone. A & # 39; childhood & # 39 ;, where children can bring their iPad or iPhone to learn how to use iMovie, is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
A normal day
Speaking fluent English (something almost unheard of in similar stores in Istanbul), a staff member who asked not to be mentioned because they are not competent to talk to the media, referred to the busy scene as a reflection of a normal day. It is clear that for the dozens of people here the call of the president has been ignored.
The high consumption of products – including iPhones – that has contributed to the stimulation of the Turkish economy over the past ten years has in reality been facilitated and encouraged by Erdogan and his ruling AK party government. He was looking for rapid economic growth, fueled by expensive, large infrastructure projects, a cornerstone of his political message. It has worked excellently for more than a decade.
In Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, two underground transport tunnels and a new Bosphorus bridge, built for a combined cost of € 8 billion, have delivered thousands of construction jobs and allow residents to travel more easily through the city.
Housing construction is booming in the country with nearly 800,000 homes being built each year. The government has promised to spend 200 billion dollars to modernize the country and never to give Turks access to cash again.
But now the wheels are starting to let go. Deteriorated relations with the US and the actions of market speculators have only served to emphasize the precarious economic position of Turkey.
The real problems are built-in, systematic and linked to political interference by the president, who refuses to raise interest rates to fight inflation. Unemployment remains stubbornly high by more than 10 percent and the cost of living has increased explosively. According to the central bank of Turkey, the long-term external debt of the private sector is $ 221 billion.
"Some of the measures that have been taken in recent days have helped, but they are temporary solutions," says Emre Deliveli, an independent economist. "The real solutions are that they have to make peace with the US and make a huge interest rate rise – 5 percent." The central bank knows this has to happen, but the president is very reluctant to see this happen, and unless things get extremely desperate. I think this will not happen. "
As the ninth-largest steel producer in the world, Donald Trump's statement on 3 August that the US would increase taxes on Turkish steel by 50 percent, is another reason to fuel the economic hitch. Only 5.6 percent of US steel imports originate in Turkey, but that means a lead of more than $ 1 billion dollars on Germany, China and Japan.
Turkish currencies have stabilized over the last few days (on Friday morning, the lira was 5,770 to the dollar, 0.7 percent up from 5,815), partly because of a promise of $ 15 billion in support from Qatar and the central bank's promise week providing liquidity to banks as required. Turkish markets are closed for the Islamic Eid al-Adha festival the rest of the week on Monday afternoon. Bloomberg reports that Turks who cash in in dollars – as Erdogan has suggested to them – have also helped.
The Turkish Minister of Finance held a teleconference with 6,000 international and other investors on Thursday afternoon, excluding the prospect of a rescue plan and capital controls from the IMF, as well as suggesting that investment portfolios should be revised. Further evidence of Turkey's combative stance appeared Wednesday when it issued important new tariffs on American alcoholic beverages, vehicles, tobacco leaves and other products.
Certain aspects of the Turkish economy remain robust. Although inflation is the highest in fourteen years, household spending and consumption are still strong. Turkey is partially cushioned by international market fluctuations because it produces and exports large volumes of vehicles, household products and agriculture and electronic goods.
Billboards in Istanbul that previously displayed the image of Erdogan's face now show ads for the Turkish Casper mobile phone. Vestel, a large Turkish electronics manufacturer with more than 15,000 employees at its main location, has also issued a series of phones that, according to Erdogan, should be purchased instead of the iPhone.
But smartphones made on Turkey currently have a small market share – the iPhone has about 17 percent, with Android-operated units far ahead of all competitors.
Economist Deliveli says that Turkish consumers have to curb expenditure because they have become much poorer compared to their earning power. Erdogan does not have to ban iPhones because no one can pay them anymore.
Unemployment is starting to rise and certain companies are going bankrupt because they can not repay their foreign debt. Worryingly, a survey conducted by the government among 1,650 people has shown that only 13 percent of respondents actually contributed to savings last year.
Back in the Akasya shopping center, the seeming calm among the shoppers because their buying power collapses before their eyes, can be due to a number of factors. The fact that no regular Turkish media outlet has reported on the misery of the lira for fear of arousing the authorities' anger may have reduced their perception of the unrest.
At the same time, many believe that Turkey is the victim of an international conspiracy, including a provincial AK party politician who photographed himself with the burning of a US dollar banknote as a sign of loyalty to the lira.
In a small electronics store in the basement of the shopping center, the consumption addiction of Turks is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that standard iPhone accessories such as leather covers can be bought in nine months of € 4.30 per month.
A young shop assistant and a proud owner of the iPhone X says he does not expect the president's threat to ban Apple products will bear fruit. That is despite the fact that BIM, a large supermarket chain, cancels the upcoming sale of iPhones this week.
The uncertainty that has been surrounded in Turkey in recent weeks can be removed in the short term, but will not disappear. On Thursday, the US Treasury Secretary promised further sanctions against Turkey if prison officer Brunson would not be released soon. With neither side looking to fall, there are more rocky days for Turkey.