Retailers preparing for Olympics; gov’t supporting measures

Supermarkets are prepared to shoulder the additional operating costs during the Olympic Games, aware of the long-term benefits for the country, representatives told the Hellenic Retail Business Association’s (SELPE) second international conference on the retail trade in Athens yesterday. «Our aim is not to get rich in these 15 days of the Games,» said Pantelis Panteliadis, president of the Association of Supermarket Enterprises (SESME). The Development Ministry’s general secretary, Dimitris Vretakos, urged businesses to tap the potential of increased demand during the event in order to boost their turnover. He said the government is preparing a package of measures to reduce retailers’ operating costs and bolster competition which will start bearing fruit from September. They will include considerable EU investment subsidies, a reform of the legal framework for e-business, and a uniform business hours schedule throughout the country, for which traders’ associations have been pressing. A 1997 regulation reached after agreement between traders and employees does provide for a uniform national schedule but older provisions, giving prefects the right to differentiate business hours, have survived and in some areas are considerably shorter. Vretakos also said the policing of prices creates de facto cartels and he believes controls should only be applied as regards quality of goods and services. Supermarkets’ representatives said they agreed with such proposals but expressed misgivings about whether they will be implemented, as, for instance, regards e-commerce which «sounds like a luxury.» «We hope the government will withstand the pressures from vested interests and will not change course.» SELPE President Antonis Makris said the State should stop viewing traders as suspect tax evaders and called for immediate measures against unregistered street traders. He added that said small enterprises should strive to specialize in order to survive. The conference, which continues today at the Pentelikon Hotel in Varibobi, will be addressed by the president of the Commerce Confederation of Catalonia, Miguel Angel Fraite, who will report on Barcelona’s experience with the Olympic Games in 1992. The conference is sponsored by the Economy and Development ministries and is supported by EuroCommerce and the United States National Retail Federation.

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