One of the worst years for retail businesses ends

Retail businesses are trying to recover from the huge blow they suffered from the rioting in central Athens as one of the worst years for the sector draws to a close. In the last weekend before Christmas the turnover of shops was significantly lower than in the same period during previous years. On average the decline from last year reached 22 percent, while in the case of small businesses the decline is estimated at 30-40 percent. Even major shopping centers such as The Mall Athens at Maroussi, which was far away from the danger zone in central Athens, showed a 5 percent drop from last year. The climate of uncertainty prevailing since September about the economic crisis has led consumers to reduce their expenses, particularly in the case of durables. According to traders’ data for October, turnover shrank by over 25 percent year-on-year across all sectors of retail commerce, reaching 30 percent in certain cases such as apparel and electrical appliances. The car sector also registered a decline, with turnover falling 4.9 percent in Q2 against the same period in 2007 and a 3.8 percent drop in Q3 compared with a year earlier. National Statistics Service data show that the signs of decline first emerged in September, although there has been slight growth in turnover at department stores, which appear to be steadily gaining more customers. Employment in the retail sector posted marginal growth of 1.8 percent during 2008 but this trend will most likely be reversed in 2009. According to all estimates, there is little optimism about shop turnover in the new year, with the specter looming of staff cuts and even the closure of some businesses. A recent survey by Kapa Research for the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry showed that four out of 10 businesses intend to reduce their employees in the near future. »I would be the last to indulge in scaremongering. I believe that businesses will not close down but the very small ones will face serious problems,» the president of the Athens Traders’ Association, Panagis Karellas, told Kathimerini.