Summer discounts began in mid-July, after the two-month period of political instability. During all this time, merchants complained that not a single client enters their stores, in an attempt to describe the poor state of the industry.
Today, there weren't many customers in the most central shopping street in Athens, although shop windows were flashing tempting offers for discounts from 30 to 70 per cent. People were just looking, and most of them went into stores with cheaper ready-made clothes.
"Discounts began with optimism generated by the normalization of the country's political situation. We have no official data, but according to most of the colleagues, whom we have talked to, the decline in sales during this period is between 10-30 per cent compared to last year. This is a very negative conclusion, because a year ago in Athens the situation was, at least, more complet: there were violent social protests, incidents of arson, severe clashes, protesters had occupied Syntagma Square. This year, although things are calm, there is a decline. The explanation is only one: people simply do not have money to buy.", said for GRReporter vice-president of the Association of Merchants in Athens Panayotis Doumas.
At the same time he expressed his concern about the future of the industry. Although there are no specific data on the number of closed shops, he said that 50 per cent of the professional premises in the centre are empty and are waiting for tenants. "In general we can say that between 40-50 per cent of the firms in the centre have been closed. Survivors are coping with great difficulties. Some exist only due to the fact that the owners cannot close them or are housed in their own property."
The most serious problems are for stores selling clothing and shoes. Because of the reduced incomes, they are in a much lower position in the list of the most necessary things, and are now considered almost a luxury." People are not buying and prefer to wear old clothes, even though prices are approaching the real value of goods."
According to Panayiotis Doumas the most unaffected companies are those providing services. "These are communications and other types of services, where there are neither goods in stock, nor has capital been invested to purchase the products." He highlighted a serious problem faced by more and more Greek companies. "The lack of liquidity is counterproductive for our companies' reputation in the eyes of foreign export firms. For example, German companies have informed us that they will not accept orders unless they receive an advance payment, and sometimes even the full amount for the goods, before they send them." He added that for this reason, companies which import luxury goods from abroad, do not declare the entire quantity, namely because they cannot order others for the next season or seasons. They are saving them for the following summer because it is difficult to renew their items.
The association of merchants, however, is constantly looking for ways to improve the negative market environment. "For us, one of the very serious problems in Athens is the blocking of the centre by protest marches. We support fully the efforts of Mayor George Kaminis to propose a bill that would prohibit the blocking of streets by social protests of small professional groups.
He defined this year's May as "dramatic" because turnover fell by over 50 per cent compared to last year." Because of the re-elections, June was also a bad month with a decline of more than 30 per cent. Against this background, July went well. There was a drop of about 10 per cent, but given that the annual index shows a decline of over 25 per cent, the current turnover can be defined as satisfactory."
Nikos Giannetos specified that he is not talking about profits, but about the survival of companies "until we see what will happen in the future." "Of course, prices contribute to this. Traders offer the best possible in order to attract customers. "
He expressed his hope that if there are no major social upheavals and the government starts to carry out reforms to rescue the economy, commercial companies will be able to stay on the market and wait for better days.