Apparel sector the hardest hit

Thousands of enterprises were forced to shut down and tens of thousands of jobs lost in 2010 as Greek commerce saw its turnover shrink considerably last year, according to figures released on Monday by the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE).

Preliminary estimates by ESEE?s Commerce and Services Institute suggest that the overall sales volume of retail enterprises, with the exception of fuel and lubricants, came to 51.6 billion euros in 2010, down from 52.8 billion in 2009, a 2.2 percent annual decline.

The yearly drop in 2009 had come to 7.1 percent, but the containment of the drop is attributed to the system of tax incentives for collecting receipts rather than more sales. In previous years tax evasion was seen to have been much more extensive.

The biggest problems are in sectors such as apparel, where the decline in turnover last year amounted to no less than 52 percent compared with 2009, while the yearly fall in the volume of fuel sold reached 28 percent. Pharmaceuticals and cosmetics dropped by 27 percent, furniture and electrical goods fell 15 percent, alcohol and tobacco products declined 14 percent, while even food saw a double-digit slump, with the sales volume contracting by 11 percent year-on-year.

The decline in consumption a result of the additional taxation and cuts in the income of most Greeks forced more than 40,000 enterprises to close down within 2010, ESEE estimates, resulting in thousands of layoffs. The first three months of 2010 saw a decline in employment in commerce that came to 6.2 percent, or 52,000 people, from the same quarter a year earlier.

All this has brought about a 10.9 percent reduction in the number of employers in commerce in the third quarter of 2010 compared with the same period in 2009, while the number of self-employed also declined by 3.8 percent year-on-year, according to the same data.