Shoppers return to city center

Store employees in central Athens yesterday told Kathimerini that shoppers were slowly venturing back out after a week of avoiding the vandalized capital. With the exception of a handful of buildings that were entirely gutted following firebomb attacks, most businesses that had sustained damage during the riots were open for business yesterday. «People have plucked up the nerve to come out – most had been scared up until now,» said Angeliki Balaka, an employee at a women’s clothing store on Ermou Street. But Balaka said it would take a while before the cash registers start ringing again. «There is not the usual festive atmosphere and people are not really in the mood for shopping,» she remarked, noting that the shop’s turnover had been curbed by some 50 percent. Many stores are offering discounts of up to 30 percent to whet the appetites of consumers. «I don’t think there are any stores not offering discounts,» said Athina Yiannopoulou, the 30-year-old manager of a women’s accessories store on Kolokotronis Street. «Last year, it was chaos – look at it now,» she said, gesturing toward an empty street. Others are even less optimistic: «Business has not been good… I might have to close down next year,» said 73-year-old Dimitris Lagadinos, who runs a tailoring business. «If things don’t change then, commercially speaking, the center is dead.» On Patission Street, whose stores sustained heavy damage due to rioting near the National Technical University of Athens, things were even quieter. «We have had no business over the past week and we are not going to be able to make up for this,» Constantinos Koutouzis, the owner of a gift shop, told Kathimerini. According to Natassa Riga, who runs a local clothes store, people are cash-strapped anyway and the riots were the last straw. «People aren’t shopping because they don’t have any money,» she said, adding that «the crisis existed before but intensified due to the riots.» Shops in Athens switched to a holiday season timetable this week, operating from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. every weekday, apart from Wednesdays when they will close at 6 p.m. On Saturday, December 20 and 27, shops will close at 8 p.m.

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