Summer sales fail to lift stores? deteriorating fortunes

Signs reading ?closed for the holidays? will likely be replaced by ones saying ?closed due to the crisis? at many retail stores around the country within the next months as summer sales have proved incapable of reversing the negative trend in sales, with turnover receding by 25 percent compared to the same period last year.

In many parts of Athens, including some central parts of the capital, the drop in trade during the summer sales was as much as 40 percent, while some owners didn?t even wait to see whether they would experience an upswing and padlocked their shops as soon as they saw that business was slow.

Of course, the drop in turnover is also attributed to the fact that many stores introduced significant reductions in prices during the sales in order to entice consumers, though in most cases this was not enough to bring the desired results.

The 25-percent dip in turnover in the first 20 days of the summer sales is a record decline, given that the drop last year compared to 2009 was 15 percent and the slump in 2009 was 20 percent compared to the year before that.

Specifically, the initial estimates of the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (NCHC) for the first 20 days of the summer sales, which began on July 15, show the following drop in turnover in the following areas: apparel-footwear 22-25 percent; domestic appliances, electronics and furniture 20-23 percent; and books, stationery and gifts 20-22 percent.

Malls also experienced a significant slump in sales at 7-10 percent, supermarkets saw a dip of between 6-8 percent and smaller food stores, liquor stores and tobacconists saw their turnover reduced by 17-20 percent.

Given how the retail sector has reacted to other difficult years, such a low turnover suggests that come September, many owners will be compelled to shut down. The bad omens are already there, according to the NCHC, which conducts a study of shops that have closed down every six months.

In central Athens alone, 23.4 percent of retail stores remained shut in the first half of 2011, compared to 17.1 percent last year. The problem is especially noticeable along major high streets, such as Academias, where the percentage of closed shops this August is 26 percent, compared to 24.6 percent in February, Ermou, where one in four shops are boarded up, and Patission, where the percentage of closed shops has skyrocketed from 14.8 percent of the total last year to 26 percent today.

In the port city of Piraeus, renowned for its shops, 20 percent of stores have closed down.

In Thessaloniki, the percentage of stores that have had to call it a day has doubled this year compared to last, from 10 percent in 2010 to 20 percent today. Main streets such as Egnatia, Venizelou and Vassilissis Olgas have suffered a closure percentage as high as 19, 18 and 18.5 percent, respectively, while on Cassandra Street, one in three shops is no longer in business.