Greeks are buying less bread and milk, and quitting or cutting down on smoking, but women still like to pay frequent visits to the hairdresser. Similar consumer trends that have emerged since 2010 have – in combination with a string of regulatory changes – triggered a shake-up of Greece’s business map, particularly in the crucial area of retail sales.
These trends are reflected in data published by the General Commercial Register and used by Endeavor Greece in its report “Greek Entrepreneurship in Numbers.” The main focus of the report is retail sales, including the catering sector.
One striking trend is evident in bakeries and patisseries, where the drop in sales of sweets and the liberalization of the bakery sector – allowing, for example, supermarkets to sell freshly baked products – have resulted in 226 shops closing down in 2016 compared with 162 new openings in the same period and 417 openings in 2012.
Kiosks, once present on every city corner, have gone from recording the fifth biggest number of new openings in 2012 (when 753 were established) to a drop of 68 percent, with 383 closures against 242 openings in 2016. Experts attribute this slide to excessive taxation on tobacco products, a drop in newspaper and magazine sales because of the crisis, as well as to consumers being more cautious about impulse purchases such as chocolates and sweets. Kiosks have also been affected by the successive changes made to their licensing status, which was liberalized in 2011 before some restrictions were reintroduced in 2014 and 2015.
Successive hikes in heating oil prices since the start of the crisis have made central heating an unaffordable luxury for most Greek households, who have come to rely on fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, leading to a rapid increase in businesses selling firewood.
The authors of the report note that surges in new businesses prompted by ephemeral trends ultimately lead to large numbers of closures. This is evident in the field of cafes/bars and restaurants: While openings in this field posted a record high of 1,955 in 2012 (or 19.1 percent of all new businesses) and 1,535 in 2016 (or 15 percent of the total), the number of closures – 1,852 cafe/bars and 1,269 restaurants were struck off the General Commercial Register in 2016 – points to the risks of embarking on such a venture.
Another interesting trend that emerges from the report is that beauty and pampering remain important to Greeks, with hair and nail salons ranking in fifth place in terms of openings in 2016 and, despite a large number of closures, still enjoying a surplus.
In retail sales as a whole, 2016 saw the opening of 10,228 new businesses – 41 percent below 2012 – and the closure of 10,925.