Need for reform to aid retail

By Dimitra Manifava

Some 2 billion euros is lost every year due to regulatory obstacles in the food retail market at the expense of both the state and households, according to supermarket representatives.

Market professionals say that overhauling Greece?s legal framework would greatly reduce the need for higher taxes, which is one of the key reasons behind rising prices and falling consumer demand.

The above conclusions are supported by a recent report compiled by the McKinsey consulting firm. The report found that eliminating a number of market restrictions and encouraging alliances between smaller businesses could increase retail sales by 1.5 billion euros, boost productivity by 22 percent and reduce retail prices.

All this would not only benefit retail per se, but would in fact boost the national economy since the annual gross added value in retail could increase by more than 4 billion euros over the next decade. Meanwhile, it is estimated that improvements in the efficiency of retail could increase tax revenues by 1.3 billion euros.

Changes that need to be introduced in order to bolster competition in the local market, professionals say, include the lifting of restrictions that currently ban supermarkets from selling tobacco products, prescription drugs, part-baked breads and fuel (it should be noted here that the restriction on fuel sales was lifted a few days ago, while the liberalization of the bake-off market is included in the latest bill tabled by the Development Ministry). With the exception of fuel, the turnover from these products is estimated at 3 billion euros.

Other changes proposed by analysts and market officials include the lifting of the restrictions on opening hours and on the operation of large superstores outside of Attica and Thessaloniki. Slashing the high administrative costs for business licensing is also seen as key.