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Christmas shopping goes hand in hand with begging at Oscar Freire and Cracolândia at Bom Retiro


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Nilda Consolação da Silva and Maria Rezende are contemporaries. The first was born in 1948, and the second in 1949, both in São Paulo. Over more than seven decades of life, they have witnessed many cultural and political movements, technological advances and economic crises. But nothing compares to what they see today, from different angles: the social abandonment of the capital of São Paulo.

Nilda as the owner of a hot dog stand on one of the corners of Rua José Paulino, in Bom Retiro, one of the main centers of popular commerce in São Paulo, and Maria as a wealthy housewife from the interior of São Paulo, who visits the capital for shopping on Rua Oscar Freire, in Jardins, address of some of the most expensive stores in the city.

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In the shopping centres, which should be crowded on Christmas Eve, there is a shortage of bags and there are beggars and drug addicts left, according to the report by Sheet saw. High prices are a common complaint for both addresses, but it is far from the only one.

“I’ve been here since 1976, 46 years in the same place with my cart. Until the 1990s it was very good, we made a lot of money, you couldn’t even see the ground, with so many people”, says Nilda. Over the years, the movement began to decline. In the first year of the pandemic, everything had to be closed and there was damage.

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“But now, when it was time to resume, we see the movement too weak. It’s not just because people have less money: they are afraid to come here because of the cracolândia”, says the trader, remembering that in In May of this year, the City of São Paulo launched an operation to dismantle the “new cracolândia” installed in Praça Princesa Isabel, which dispersed drug users to various points in the central region of the capital, causing fear to residents and damage to traders.

“If you give them food, they sell it to buy drugs. If you give them money, they buy drugs. There are a lot of young unemployed people”, says Nilda. Widowed, she works alone after her three daughters graduated.

“I am very impressed with the number of beggars”, says Maria Rezende, a consumer at Jardins. “There are people you don’t think will come up to you and ask… But they do. I’ve been here for half an hour and I’ve already been approached several times”, says the housewife, who was born in São Paulo, but lives in the countryside. , in Ribeirão Preto. She was at Oscar Freire looking for a “different and special” gift for her husband.

“Whenever I come here [para São Paulo], I like to walk around, go shopping. But today is not so hot, I was approached too much [por pedintes]🇧🇷

THE Sheet was on Thursday (22) at Oscar Freire to check out the Christmas shopping movement and spoke with consumers. On three occasions, consumers and the report itself were approached with requests for handouts. The saleswoman at one of the stores, who preferred not to be identified, says that movement is weak in the region and that beggars are increasingly frequent.

The street —which in 2006 underwent extensive renovation, in the order of BRL 8.5 million, to bury the electrical wiring, level the sidewalks and standardize the street furniture, making it the closest address to shopping streets in Europe and the United States Unidos— today it also coexists with characters common to popular commerce, such as street vendors of the most diverse products (from incense to hot dogs) and carters in search of material for recycling.

Questioned by the report, Associação Comercial Jardins e Itaim (which has among its members brands such as Calvin Klein, John John, Brooksfield, Animale and Lez a Lez, in addition to jewelry stores Antonio Bernardo and Vivara) informed that “there is no correlation between the increase of begging in the city of São Paulo, an urban problem, and sales.”

“In 2022 there was a 35% increase in movement compared to last year. We project that 2023 will be even better for trade and services in the neighborhood”, said the association, in a note. The institution did not respond if it foresees an increase in Christmas sales this year.

The CDL (Chamber of Shopkeepers) of Bom Retiro recognizes that the dispersion of Cracolândia this year served to scare consumers away from the region.

“Last Christmas, there were health restrictions and fewer people on the streets”, says Luciano Silva Alves, director of CDL Bom Retiro. “This year, it was supposed to have more movement, but trade is weak: the World Cup hindered sales, and the dispersion of cracolândia scared the people who visit the region.”

Luz station ‘taken over’ by drug addicts

Seller Reginaldo Lucas Santana, 40, who has a clothes stand on José Paulino, is discouraged. In addition to the increase in the price of fabrics —which went from BRL 32 to BRL 70, on average—, the constant presence of drug addicts hindered sales. “Some addicts end up intimidating clients, who feel very cornered, unprotected”, he says.

Those who leave the Luz station, the closest to Bom Retiro, will already find the members of the racolândia flow at the door, says Santana. “Both sides of the street are taken over by them”, says Santana.

“Many travel in groups, which increases the feeling of insecurity. This spreads by word of mouth, and Bom Retiro ends up with this image, of an unsafe place.”

Alves says it is a “difficult to understand” situation. “How come people are dealing in the street and nobody does anything? With Military Police and GCM [Guarda Civil Metropolitana] straight ahead?” he asks.

For this year, CDL Bom Retiro forecasts a 5% drop in Christmas sales. “The fact that it is an election year, with people insecure about the economy next year, also harmed consumption,” says Alves.

According to the CNC (Confederação Nacional do Comércio), Christmas this year should move R$ 65 billion, which represents a real increase (discounting inflation) of 1.2%. Although insignificant, it is the first increase in sales after two years of decline. But trade has not yet reached the pre-pandemic level of BRL 67.5 billion in 2019.

Although inflation has cooled down and is expected to close 2022 below 6.5%, the rise in credit persists, as well as the high indebtedness of families, which curbs consumption, according to the CNC. As a result, the population focuses on buying basic items, such as food. The branch of supermarkets should account for the largest share of consumption at Christmas, 38.6% (R$ 25.1 billion), says the CNC.

In the accounts of Abrasce (Brazilian Association of Shopping Centers), there should be a nominal increase of 4% in shopping mall sales this year-end. The report recorded crowded establishments in the week leading up to Christmas. Despite the high movement, little euphoria in shopping.

At Shopping Center Norte, one of the most popular in the city of São Paulo, the Christmas decoration has already attracted 1,400% more visitors than last year. In 2022, the theme is Disney and Pixar films, featuring characters from productions such as “Monstros S/A” and “Toy Story”. The presence with Santa Claus also increased compared to last Christmas: an increase of 411%

“After the pandemic, malls are reinforcing the space for entertainment and food”, says Guilherme Marini, executive director of Center Norte and Lar Center. According to him, holding the Cup between November and December, however, partially frustrated year-end sales, as well as the fact that Christmas falls on a weekend. “This spreads sales a little, because the last weekend before the date is always the strongest”, he says.

Marini claims not yet to have data on storeowners’ sales, but adherence to the mall’s Christmas campaign —which entitles you to a panettone and a coupon to compete for a Jeep Compass 2023 for every R$600 in purchases— is 17% larger.

Payment in cash and some dreams postponed

Part of the public that visits Oscar Freire does so because they do not appreciate crowded malls. “I don’t like turmoil”, says business administrator Cristiana Gomes, 47. Realtor Rosana Romeo, 62, lives close to the shopping center and is also a fan of malls.

“But the stores here already had more variety”, she says, who is happy to say goodbye to 2022 and the political polarization that marked the year.

Maraísa Stanícia, 58, and daughter Luíza Stanícia Eugenio, 27, are excited about 2023. “This year we worked hard to recover from the pandemic”, says Maraísa, who runs an advertising agency with her family. “We already have some contracts in place. But everything will depend on how the economy behaves in the next government”, says Luíza, who complains about prices. “We are spending more, not because we buy more, but because things are more expensive.”

Public attorney Zeny Kim, 44, has also found the prices steep. “If it’s expensive for me, imagine for the poorest people,” she says. “It’s expensive to eat, you stop buying some things to take care of the basics”, she says, who expects less inflation for next year.

One of Zeny’s dreams that were postponed to 2023 was changing his car. “I wanted an electric Toyota, but the price of cars has gone up so much, I don’t buy it.”

Antônio Marcos Neves, 39, manager of a customized furniture company, also had to give up a trip to Argentina this year. “I’m spending more this year because of inflation,” he says. “But I believe the market will recover in 2023 and it will be a positive year.”

Already at Bom Retiro, nurse Dulce Lombardi, 55, celebrated her achievement in 2022.

“I managed to save enough to make the second trip to Europe. I’m going to London”, says she, who was shopping for some gifts at José Paulino. In order to maintain the same discipline in 2023, it plans to continue paying everything in cash.

Young Poliana Cechetti, 14, came from Rio Verde (GO) with her family to shop at José Paulino. “It was worth it, the prices of party dresses here are much cheaper than in our city”, she says.

The director of human resources Eliane Rios, 51, came from Maceió (AL) to go shopping in Bom Retiro. “But I didn’t see much difference between the prices here and the malls I visited,” she says.

At the popular shopping center, friends Lucinete Barreto, 39, a salesperson, and Analice Martins, 40, a pastry chef, complained about the prices at Bom Retiro. “I’ve paid cheaper here,” says Lucinete. “Last year I didn’t spend anything, I just paid off debt. Now I’m taking the opportunity to buy for myself”, says Analice.

Mother and daughter, kitchen maid Adenilda dos Santos, 49, and student Flávia dos Santos, 22, also took advantage of Christmas 2022 to go shopping, after a very economical year. “We are paying everything by debit”, says Adenilda.

The couple Isaac Lacerda, 17, and Amanda Feitosa, 22, sell women’s clothing in Bom Retiro and felt less movement this year.

“Every 20th, we sell well, it’s pay day”, says Lacerda. “But for the rest of the month, people are afraid to come here because of the cracolândia.”

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