Greek retail businesses hit hard by Covid, call for increased state support

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Greece’s retail sector has been hit hard by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, according to a survey, as the industry is calling for further state support to avert the closure of thousands of businesses.

“In 2020, a year with a hard lockdown, the turnover of very small retail businesses (small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of the local economy) in the Attica region decreased by about 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion), and a reduction of 220 million euros is expected in 2021,” Ioannis Chatzitheodosiou, president of the Union of Hellenic Chambers of Commerce, told Xinhua news agency.

Revenues declined last year by 28 per cent compared to 2019 and by about 3 per cent this year compared to 2020, he said.

“It is not only retail that suffered hard, as the decrease in retail turnover in 2020 is estimated to have subsequently reduced turnover by 2.5 billion euros in all other sectors of the economy interlinked with retail,” Chatzitheodosiou explained.

As a result, 140,000 jobs were lost, according to the survey and figures of the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).

The Greek government has allocated some 40 billion euros during the pandemic to support households and businesses. Meanwhile, for the chambers and businessmen, more relief measures are needed for a brighter 2022.

“The state may have taken some support measures, but according to the survey, 47 per cent of retail companies stated that these measures were insufficient. Twenty-seven per cent considered the measures sufficient to a small extent and only 18 per cent said they were adequate to a large extent,” Chatzitheodosiou said.

“If targeted support measures are not taken now, then in the next period hundreds of thousands of businesses are at risk of padlocks,” he said, explaining that the combination of a prolonged decrease in turnover and heavy financial obligations is strangling entrepreneurism.

Retail businesses want part of their debts written off, in particular those owed to social insurance funds, he said.

During the past two years of the pandemic, “the most difficult factor for Greek businesses to handle was the volatility, the unexpected and complete loss of the ability to plan”, said Panos Voyatzis, owner of a photo gallery in central Athens.

Despite the challenges, Voyatzis remains optimistic about the future.

“I think we’re going to have less surprises and hopefully a very good year in 2022,” he told Xinhua.

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