The introduction of capital controls brought about massive growth in the use of credit and debit cards at supermarkets. Despite the fact that the controls have been relaxed since the summer, this rise in cashless transactions by consumers appears to be continuing, according to a study by the Research Institute of Retail Consumer Goods (IELKA).
While in June 2015 the rate of card usage at the stores of major supermarket chains had stood at 7-8 percent, and in smaller retail outlets below 1 percent, this has now soared to over 30 percent and 7.5 percent respectively. One in two consumers now says that since the government imposed the capital controls at end-June they have mostly been using cards to pay at supermarkets.
The growth in card usage translates into increased costs for supermarkets due to the high commissions they have to pay to banks. IELKA calculated that this shift in consumer habits has led to a significant rise in the retail chains’ operating expenses, by 40 million euros on an annual basis or equal to 0.21 percent of sales.
Regardless of how they pay, consumers definitely buy less nowadays. IELKA has found that after the first week of July, when sales showed a 30 percent spike due to panic buying, supermarket turnover is now the lowest in recent memory, having fallen 5.1 percent in September from a year earlier, according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority.