ECONOMY

Traditional shopkeepers join forces

Athens stores are taking action to stem their losses and fend off fierce competition by shopping centers, by introducing ?open malls.?

Traditional shops have been hit hard by the financial crisis and the onslaught of modern shopping complexes that have taken a considerable slice of the retail market both in Athens and other major Greek cities. The new malls have in fact managed to contain their losses from the crisis to a minimum, while in some cases they have even shown an increase in sales on an annual basis.

Now Athens retailers are joining forces on a local basis to provide added value for consumers via the introduction of discount vouchers, the provision of parking spaces — in some cases without charge — and various types of entertainment.

?The funding of such actions could come from the National Strategic Reference Framework in association with the Athens Traders Association and local authorities,? the president of the National Confederation of Greek Commerce, Vassilis Korkidis, said recently.

Shop owners in various traditional shopping destinations and downgraded areas of the capital have started working together to boost sales, and already the first proposals have been submitted for the country?s first open malls. The first areas to have organized themselves to that end are on Aeolou Street, close to Omonia Square, and the side roads off Patission Street, north of the center, with several other areas set to follow.

Another aim of the open-mall plan is to raise funds to reopen the closed stores in each area.

Shops in the capital have seen a dramatic drop in rental rates, while the so-called ?good-will? (?aeras?) of stores has all but evaporated, Dika Agapitidou, head of the Athens Economics Ltd consultancy firm, said at a recent conference.

Newer shopping malls by contrast are increasing their market share at the expense of traditional stores as they offer a safe environment and lower lease rates. Malls in Attica currently cover a surface of 463,722 square meters while those planned will cover another 279,400 sq.m.