Athens shopkeepers skip summer holidays to balance out losses

Given rising costs and plummeting sales, it seems that there will be no vacation this summer for many small business owners in Athens.

One businessman who owns a clothing store in the city center told Kathimerini that he will keep his shop open in August – a traditional vacation period in Greece – as sales this year have been limited.

“We are slowly returning to the past. When I first started working, there was no time off other than Saturday afternoons,” said the storeowner, who, unable to afford the costs, was forced to fire his staff.

According to the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), the retail trade turnover index fell 5.7 percent in the first quarter of 2013, while the drop in wholesale reached 14.4 percent compared to the previous three-month period.

A report published by the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE), meanwhile, indicates that last summer, 65 percent of business owners stated that they would not be taking a vacation, while 16 percent said they would reduce the duration of their holiday.

“We realize that because of the worsening crisis, the continuous decrease in sales and the increase in costs, we will see drastic repercussions this summer,” said Dimitris Bibas, a researcher for the Institute of Small Enterprises of the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants (IME/GSEVEE).

“Business owners will not be able to go on vacation because of personal financial reasons, but also so that they can try to make up for the drop in turnover,” Bibas said.

GSEVEE’s general secretary, Nikos Skorinis, expects the number of businesses to close this year to outnumber those that open by some 60,000, saying 195,000 jobs will be lost.

“The businesses that have survived and will continue to do so are specialty stores – for example, those that sell wedding apparel. And that’s only because people can’t avoid such expenditures. Other than that, it’s typically during the summer that tourist shops’ sales increase,” said Nikos Giannetos, a member of the Athens Traders Association.

If there’s one thing that every small business owner agrees on, it is that passing controversial legislation allowing retailers to open on Sundays will make things worse for them because of the additional operating costs.

But what has shopowners like Giannetos even more worried is the political crisis. “For the first time since the crisis started, my business has actually experienced a slight increase in sales. However, if we have elections, that would be the final blow,” said the tradesman.

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