Stores crippled by riots and crisis

Stores in the northern and southern suburbs have seen a sharp dip in activity, as forecasts that shoppers avoiding the riot-shaken center of Athens would turn to them ended up being inaccurate. Managers and employees at shops in The Mall, Athens, the popular commercial complex in Maroussi, tell Kathimerini that their turnover has plunged by between 30 and 90 percent this year. The drop is partially attributed to the impact of the economic crisis but also to the riots in central Athens which, they say, has had a «numbing» effect on consumers. The crowds of people milling in and out of The Mall are deceiving, local store staff say. «That doesn’t mean they are buying anything,» remarked a sales assistant in a store selling designer clothes for women. «Kids meet here to hang out and most of the adults pop in after work for a bit of window shopping,» she added. Another store assistant remarked that those who do enter shops and try on clothes are fishing for bargains and discounts. The situation is even worse in the affluent southern suburb of Glyfada, usually buzzing at this time of year. «Last year in the days before Christmas we didn’t have time to have a cigarette – now all we do is smoke, do crosswords, play cards, anything to pass the time,» a young employee of a popular local shoe store remarked. Another woman who has worked in the same Glyfada clothes store for 20 years said that turnover was down by 50 percent and expressed fears about whether the business would survive another year. In riot-battered central Athens many store owners, who report a drop in turnover of between 30 and 70 percent, are wondering the same thing. Daniil Karakasian, 42, has run a store selling imported Indian clothes and fabrics on Aeolou Street for the past 20 years. «I don’t remember ever having experienced a situation like this – things are extremely tough,» he said, noting that he is struggling to cover his store’s rent and other expenses. Evi Anthopoulou, a 34-year-old who runs a family business selling women’s clothes in the center, blames the impact of the global economic crisis in part for the current slump but says that recent riots have had a very damaging effect. «When clashes continue to break out in the city center, and television channels continue to terrorize viewers with their reports, how can we expect people to feel like shopping?» she said.

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