ECONOMY

Supermarket chains stifling traditional retail food stores

Over 3,500 food retail stores shut down between 2010 and 2013, which shows that not even shops selling essential commodities escaped having to pay the ultimate price during Greece’s economic crisis.

The blow was clearly harder for traditional stores such as independent butchers, grocers and minimarkets, which didn’t have the same leeway for discounts as the supermarket chains did at the height of the crisis. And while some chains also went bankrupt, the healthy ones have tried to – and continue to – grab the market share left by traditional retail stores.

IRI research data show that while in 2010 there were 16,207 retail food enterprises in Greece, this number dropped to 12,547 in 2013, meaning that 3,660 or one-fifth were lost.

The crisis has accelerated the concentration in chain food enterprises, and in 2013 traditional food stores numbered 1,720 fewer than three years earlier. The trend toward buying fresh meat, vegetables and fish from supermarkets and not from local stores – mostly to save time – which was already apparent before the crisis, strengthened during the crisis years. This time the main incentive was the lower prices that supermarket chains were able to offer. The queues for lamb at supermarket butcher counters in the runup to Easter provided clear evidence of that trend.

The other category that has suffered considerably is that of minimarkets, as in the period from 2010 to 2013 their number declined by 1,352. In fact the majority have been replaced by convenience stores developed by the major supermarket chains in the form of franchising.

The trend of concentrating all retail activities under one roof has brought hypermarkets back into fashion – i.e. stores covering a surface area in excess of 2,500 square meters. In 2013 their number increased to 58 from 56 in 2012. Recently Vassilopoulos launched a new store covering 4,000 sq.m. on Kifissou Avenue.

The decline recorded in discount stores is attributed to the departure of Aldi from the Greek market and the shutdown of the Dia chain, leaving German-owned Lidl the sole player in that section of the market.