Sales fall further after Christmas bonus cut

According to shopkeepers in Greece’s major cities, up until Christmas Eve, stores had seen an increase in traffic but a drop in sales this festive season.

Although the decent weather last weekend allowed for a stroll in city centers, above all in Athens, and big shopping malls, the value of total purchases made by consumers to date is at least 10 percent lower than the level recorded last year.

Tradesmen estimate that the holiday season turnover – including that of food stores – is expected to end up below the 7-billion-euro level, at around 6.8 billion euros, and down some 800 million euros compared to last year. If these estimates prove correct, the holiday turnover will come to just one-third of that recorded in 2008, when it had amounted to 21.9 billion euros. This means that turnover has shrunk by about 70 percent within just five years.

Professionals note that the catalyst for the further reduction in turnover this year after the already bad holiday season recorded last year was the abolition of the Christmas bonus for all pensioners and civil servants.

Also many consumers are waiting for the winter sales before making more purchases. The winter sales start on the second Monday of January (this year it is on January 13) and conclude on Friday, February 28.

At the same time the standoff over the operation of all stores on Sunday, December 29, is continuing, as the Association of Retail Sales Enterprises of Greece (SELPE) has asked that its members be allowed to open. Although the Development Ministry stopped short of a legislative intervention to that end, Minister Costis Hatzidakis told Skai Radio this week that “nowhere in the world are stores closed on Sunday, December 29, but in Athens the unionists of commerce have proudly decided to remain closed.” He also reminded listeners of the ministry’s original position for stores to have the option of opening on all Sundays of the year, a position later amended in order to get the Parliament’s vote.

“I hope everyone realizes that Deputy Minister [Athanasios] Skordas and I were correct in our proposal for the opening of stores on 52 Sundays every year. Unfortunately our position was not accepted by the Parliament,” and therefore the choice was passed to regional authorities to decide on any more Sundays than the seven provided for every year by law.

Shops may be closed this Sunday, but in central Athens they will be open tomorrow until 11 p.m. as the Athens Tradesmen Association and the City of Athens have decided to organize a so-called “White Night” event. The Numismatic Museum, the Folk Art Museum and the Museum of Greek Folk Instruments will also be open until 11 p.m.

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