Number of shut stores in Athens city center finally declining

By Dimitra Manifava

For the first time since September 2012 the number of shops going out of business in Athens’s main commercial district showed a decline in March this year, according to revised data presented by the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE).

Although the rate of shuttered stores continues to exceed 30 percent of the total, the fact that there seems to be a drop in their number for the first time since 2012 is generating reserved optimism among tradesmen and owners of commercial properties.

The ESEE survey’s data showed that from a total of 6,377 enterprises in Athens city center 1,986 that were not operating, i.e. a rate of 31.2 percent. In the previous survey that rate had stood at 32.4 percent with closed shops exceeding 2,000 to reach 2,072. In March 2013 the rate had been at 28.8 percent and in September 2012 at 28.3 percent.

The ESEE figures correspond with data from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) on retail sales volume, which has been posting a recovery since December 2013. A closer look at the city center’s main commercial streets – such as Ermou, Academias, Panepistimiou, Stadiou, Patission, Themistocleous, Emmanouil Benaki, Harilaou Trikoupi and Solonos – confirms the declining trend in store closures, as in March 2014 they accounted for 31 percent of all stores on these streets, against 36.4 percent six months earlier. This has been the first decline recorded since August 2010.

The survey, conducted by the Commerce and Services Institute of ESEE (INEMY-ESEE), has shown that although there are indeed certain spots with more closed shops, the overall picture shows a uniform distribution of shuttered businesses in the Athens city center.

However, in recent months there has been a noticeable surge of new enterprises in the area around Ermou Street, most involved in entertainment and catering, whereas in previous years new businesses in that area were mainly involved in apparel. INEMY-ESEE is also planning a survey to determine which sectors the new enterprises founded in Athens are involved in.