Winter sales fail to woo crisis-weary local consumers

The winter sales got off to a sluggish start in their first week for the most part, with traders noting a sense of weariness on the part of consumers, who are becoming harder to woo with the kind of special offers and price cuts that have been a strategy staple for the past three years.

According to statistics published by the Hellenic Retail Business Association (HRBA), the January sales seem to be stuck in negative territory so far, despite a flurry of activity on the first day, which soon lost its momentum — possibly due to a number of strikes in the public and private sector, and the protests rallies that came with them, which coincided with the first week of the sales period.

For 2011, HRBA data show that retail chains saw an average drop in sales of 18 percent, while December turnover was down 15 percent compared to last year.

Based on the above figures, and give that Greece is in the midst of negotiations that will prove crucial to its future, the commercial world was more or less prepared for shoppers? lackluster interest. In response to these concerns, many began the sales season with discounts reaching as high as 50 percent, while ?bazaars,? or flash sales, have also proved popular for certain categories of merchandise as a tool to boost interest. For example, Notos Galleries department stores launched 50 percent discounts from the get-go, while the River West Mall in Aegaleo, western Athens, is holding flash sales with items at one-third of their original price.

According to Notos Galleries marketing chief Nikos Aidinis, the public responds to offers of this kind and therefore sales in the first week were seen as positive in that they were at the same levels as last year.

Consumers also seem to be responding to a promotion campaign launched by the Athens Metro Mall in Aghios Dimitrios, southern Athens, called ?Sales Bank,? whereby consumers receive a 5 percent cash return on all their sales every day. George Karivalis, CEO of Talima Venture, which manages the mall, told Kathimerini that the number of visitors remains high, while tenants within the mall have expressed optimism regarding sales. It is also worth noting that youth-wear brand Shana was recently added to the Athens Metro Mall?s tenant mix. Talima, which brought Shana to Greece, is also expected to announce the opening of another outlet, on central Ermou Street, within the next few weeks.

Likewise, at the River West Mall, discounts in the first week of the sales have been as high as 70 percent on a number of items, while there is also a raffle for 10-day trips to the winter resort of Arachova for consumers who spend over 30 euros.

The Attica department store in downtown Athens and Golden Hall mall in Maroussi also launched the season with 70 percent discounts on a number of items, with their campaigns focused on advertising and promotion of their members? cards, which offer returning clients a number of privileges.

The Athens Heart mall, on Pireos Street, has seen a significant rise in traffic since December, when a Sklavenitis supermarket opened on its premises, while its sales period appears to be going at a steady pace compared to last year on the back of generous discounts. Athens Heart will also be welcoming a Benetton outlet on March 1.

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