Retailers calling for more state support
Greece’s retail sector has been hit hard by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, according to a survey published on Wednesday by the Athens Chamber of Tradesmen, as the industry is calling for further state support to avert the closure of thousands of businesses.
“In 2020, a year with a hard lockdown, the turnover of very small retail businesses (small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of the local economy) in the Attica region decreased by about 3 billion euros, and a reduction of 220 million euros is expected in 2021,” Ioannis Chatzitheodosiou, president of the Union of Hellenic Chambers of Commerce, commented to Xinhua.
Revenues declined last year by 28% from 2019 and by about 3% this year compared to 2020, he said.
“It’s not only retail that suffered hard, as the decrease in retail turnover in 2020 is estimated to have subsequently reduced turnover by €2.5 billion in all other sectors of the economy interlinked with retail,” Chatzitheodosiou explained.
As a result, 140,000 jobs were lost, according to the survey and Hellenic Statistical Authority figures.
The Greek government has allocated some €40 billion during the pandemic to support households and businesses. Meanwhile, for the chambers and businesses, more relief measures are needed for a brighter 2022.
“The state may have taken some support measures, but according to the survey, 47% of retail companies stated that these measures were insufficient; 27% considered the measures sufficient to a small extent and only 18% said they were adequate to a large extent,” Chatzitheodosiou said.
“If targeted support measures are not taken now, then in the coming period hundreds of thousands of businesses are at risk of being padlocked,” he said, explaining that the combination of a prolonged decrease in turnover and heavy financial obligations is strangling entrepreneurism. Retail businesses want part of their debts written off, in particular those owed to social insurance funds, he added.
During the past two years of the pandemic, “the most difficult factor for Greek businesses to handle was the volatility, the unexpected and complete loss of the ability to plan,” said Panos Voyatzis, owner of a photo gallery in central Athens, but he remains optimistic about the future: “I think we’re going to have fewer surprises and hopefully a very good year in 2022.”