By Dimitra Manifava
The government and the Development Ministry in particular appear to have passed the Sunday opening test, as consumer traffic at stores in Greece last Sunday, at least in the main shopping areas, turned out to be greater than expected.
A key factor in the success of the first application of the Sunday opening law was the fact that it was a day that formed part of the fall sales – also a new measure – while the favorable weather also helped.
“The picture of our cities changed. Consumers embraced both the idea of the 10-day sales periods and stores opening on a Sunday,” stated Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis on Monday. “We have therefore done very well to ignore those who expressed a fear of the new. We are just doing the same as most countries in Europe. Why shouldn’t we in Greece?” the minister said.
However, it was again evident that retail commerce is a two-speed market in Greece, with those benefitting being the major chains and enterprises with stores in malls, rather than small and medium-sized enterprizes.
“Compared to the same Saturday last year – when there was no Sunday opening – the visits to shopping centers went up this year by up to 300 percent,” claimed Antonis Makris, the head of the Association Retail Enterprises in Greece (SELPE). He added that turnover during the November 2-3 weekend was up between 50 and 100 percent on that of Saturday, November 3, 2012. In fact, the losers were the supermarket chains, as sector estimates put their sales on Sunday at just 25 to 30 percent of an ordinary day for the stores that did open.
Smaller retail stores are reporting a very different picture, though. They had a significant number of shoppers coming in but turnover was far from satisfactory. According to data compiled by the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE), only one in three such shops opened in Attica and just one in four in the rest of the country.
ESEE head Vassilis Korkidis admitted to Kathimerini that “the turnover enterprises will record by the end of the intermediary sales period will likely be smaller than that which was originally expected as consumers turned to major chains and malls on Sunday.”