Bargain shopping in Turkey

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Looking for antiques? Head to Istanbul. The economic crisis makes for great bargains, as The World's Aaron Schachter reports.

LAURA LYNCH: Another grand city of the Middle East is apparently the place to go for oriental antiques. The shops of Istanbul are like treasure troves in the midst of the global economic crisis. At least that's what we hear from a recent visitor, The World's savvy shopper, Aaron Schachter.


AARON SCHACHTER: Abdullah Antiques is packed with the kinds of things you'd expect to see in a baroque European palace, massive chandeliers, over the top ornate mirrors, and street-light-sized floor lamps. The place is dark when I walk in. Keeping the lights off saves money, and it doesn't really matter much anyway since there are no customers.


AARON SCHACHTER: Abdullah, who owns the shop, says the quality of his items is amazing, but the quantity of customers is dismal. Just a few years ago he'd buy something in the morning and sell it by closing time. Most shops in Cukurcuma, Istanbul's antiques neighborhood, are feeling the crunch as well. Places like Sinan Deviren's. It specializes in 1970's retro and art deco from the '30's.


AARON SCHACHTER: This is a Phillips Commander Luxus, a German stereo with cassette player, radio, turntable and mixing board; state of the art circa 1973.


AARON SCHACHTER: This baby would have sold last year for 15 hundred bucks, now it's listed at 1100, but Deviren says he'd let it go for nine, a 40 percent markdown.


AARON SCHACHTER: Deviren says there are just enough buyers, even now, to stay in business, though he admits it helps that he also fixes appliances. Another shopkeeper in the area who sells fine china says she's barely hanging on. One month this spring she sold exactly one piece, for about $160. Luckily, she owns the building, so doesn't have to pay rent. But in one store, the faltering economy has actually been a boon. Christopher Hall runs Hall Istanbul, an upscale furniture and interior design company.

CHRISTOPHER HALL: It seems, for interior design at least, that I'm getting more work. And I think the reason is, is that people are sitting at home more. I mean, they have time all of a sudden now, maybe because they're entertaining more at home. But I've spoken to some architect and interior design friends of mine and they're all saying the same thing.

AARON SCHACHTER: Wealthier people aren't just staying home, they're buying homes. Because of the downturn, the price of real estate in Istanbul has dipped just enough to make investing in a second home possible. And people need to outfit their new pads. But the fact is for most businesses here, times are tough. There used to be a safety net, of sorts, advertising agencies and film studios in need of authentic decor and props. But times are hard in the fantasy biz too. For The World, I'm Aaron Schachter, Istanbul.