ECONOMY

No festive season for traders

Merchants were disappointed with the holiday season, with one out of two saying business was worse than last year, according to a survey by the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE). According to the results of the survey, 22.55 percent of merchants said business was better than last year, 28.92 percent said it was the same and 48.53 percent said it was worse. A large majority of merchants (67.65 percent) said business peaked during the week before Christmas, 25.98 percent said it peaked during the week between Christmas and New Year’s and 6.37 percent experienced no peak in business. It is interesting to note that 54.70 percent of clients used cash to buy goods, 37.35 percent used credit cards and 7.95 percent used both. This represents a large swing away from credit card use and in favor of cash. Merchants said this was because many have exceeded the credit limits on their credit cards and are now busy repaying their loans. The large number of consumer loans available from banks also helped to increase the number of those paying with cash, although the lifting of restrictions on consumer goods appears to have done little to stimulate the market. The survey shows a split between luxury shops and those selling cheaper goods. Luxury shops did quite well, while those selling cheaper goods either saw their sales stagnate or experienced a drop. Merchants blame the loss of income on those usually shopping in cheaper shops but they also pointed the finger at open-market sellers, many of them immigrants, who trade illegally in a variety of goods. Merchants also blamed shops run by immigrants, especially Chinese, for a loss of business. A further indication of thin business during the Christmas holiday season was that only 8 percent of respondents declared that they had hired extra personnel to cope with greater demand. The survey was conducted among businesses throughout Greece, but mostly concentrated in Attica (42 percent) and Central Macedonia (31.5 percent).