Shopping malls threaten stores, says association

Expressing its serious concerns over the future of traditional trade, the Athens Commercial Association (ACA) has warned that «the uncontrolled emergence of major commercial malls could drive thousands of smaller business to close down, in addition to the abandonment of rented and privately used properties.» On the other hand, development companies argue that the operation of shopping malls is supplementary to commercial streets and helps to improve the city’s commercial potential, primarily through the establishment of new companies and chains. Peter Tont, of real estate investment trust Mills Corporation’s leasing department, commented that «experience so far has shown that shopping malls do not disturb the existing commercial balance and even benefit smaller stores’ income by attracting larger numbers of consumers.» He added that «commercial chains want to have outlets in a good market, whether this is located in a shopping mall or on a highly commercial street.» However, the limited experience gained from the operation of the first shopping malls and department stores in the city center shows that there are no severe implications involved for shops operating on commercial streets, such as central Athens’s Ermou St. Though conditions are different in regional markets, where certain already existing problems (business, vacant premises) have been somewhat aggravated. As an official with a clothes chain put it: «The operation of increasingly larger chains in many commercial sectors intensifies competition and control of the market is gradually taken over by the bigger players, having an adverse effect on medium- and small-sized businesses.» Panayiotis Tsaousis, of Cushman and Wakefield Hellas, believes that «shopping malls are very competitive with traditional stores, since they claim higher incomes and market shares, especially at a time when the available household income is under pressure and this possibly impacts consumer spending.» A combination of the above factors is seen as making things even harder for smaller commercial operators, while future trends for regional markets now point to a swift change toward stores specializing in service provision.

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