OPINION

Consumer nation

You go down Pireos Avenue, leaving Athens behind you. Or do you? Where does the city really end? Houses, restaurants, clubs, museums, theaters and shopping malls form a dense urban sprawl. Suburbs and districts merge into one another, creating a vast and heavy conglomeration which we refer to as Athens or Attica. The mammoth malls that draw the late urbanites like huge magnets are the capital’s new landmark. Magnets for consumption and recreation, thousands of square meters full of goods, shopping windows. They seduce the residents of the affluent northern suburbs as well as the people from the western neighborhoods. On post-industrial Pireos Avenue, billboards advertise the brand new 20,000-square-meter mall. This is where the heart of Athens beats. Indeed. The heart lies in the temples of consumption. It was confirmed by the recent traffic jams on Syngrou Avenue during the opening of the new electronic megastores. As the recession takes hold, salaried employees and hourly workers line up at megastore entrances to get their hands on a super bargain, an amazing offer to satisfy their ever-growing needs, to quench their insatiable thirst. At the same time, small shop owners suffer. Small businesses that made up the invisible but strong spine of the domestic market are finding it impossible to keep up with the competition. The collapse of small- and medium-sized businesses looks inevitable. But who benefits? Is it the consumer? This remains to be seen. So far, shopping centers do not seem to be pushing down prices. Quite the opposite, in fact. The collapse of small- and medium-sized businesses has triggered a chain reaction. The situation is taking its toll on entrepreneurship in general. For who will dare start their own business in this environment? What does the future hold? A nation of employees working for others. Individuals without ambition, without risk, without originality, people who merely transfer money from one pocket to another.