ECONOMY

Ministry applies for open mall funding

The creation of so-called open shopping malls could be the best possible solution for the local retail sector?s current dire problems, especially in the historic center of the capital, which has been pummeled by the economic crisis.

The idea that was first proposed about a year ago by the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE) has now reached a mature stage, but what is missing is the funding.

According to sources, the General Secretariat for Commerce has submitted a program to that end for funding from the European Union-subsidized National Strategic Reference Framework of up to 6 million euros and is awaiting its approval by the competent administrative authority. This amount is far smaller than what the Development Ministry had originally planned for; however, if the project proves a success in one municipality, particularly if that is in the City of Athens, the government will attempt to have the funding increased.

The objective is to highlight and make the most of the city?s commercial centers as unified shopping attractions with a potential that would combine cultural interest with recreation, purchase benefits and quality of service. In other words, it will provide local authorities and trade associations the opportunity to cooperate to offer consumers conveniences similar to those at conventional shopping malls such as Golden Hall or The Mall Athens — both in the northern suburb of Maroussi — such as parking lots, children?s facilities, direct updates for special offers and discounts, rewards for purchases through extra discounts, artistic and cultural events, and so on.

As far as Athens is concerned, the plan currently under consideration is for the creation of an open mall at Monastiraki, near Plaka, on the popular downtown shopping strip Ermou Street, or even in a broader area that would stretch from Plaka to Omonia Square.

ESEE is dealing with an unprecedented decline in consumer spending and has warned that the center of Athens will be deserted unless serious measures are taken. Empty stores on Stadiou Street amount to 42 percent, while even the upmarket district of Kolonaki over one in three (33.7 percent) of shop spaces on popular Tsakalof Street now stand empty.

According to shopkeepers, it?s not just the economic crisis and the decline in disposable incomes that are to blame, but also the flourishing illegal street trade and demonstrations that have deterred consumers from visiting the city center and led to turnover plummeting in the last few years.