THE traffic in the marketah, the recent holiday season, seems to be normalizing after a long period of overlapping crises (financial, health, energy) and the share of businesses with higher sales during this year’s holiday season exceeds the corresponding last year.

This results from a nationwide survey ESEE on store traffic during the 2023-2024 festive season, where traffic fluctuated at satisfactory levels with an emphasis on cheaper products.

The results of the survey include the following:

1. During this year’s holiday season, almost three in 10 businesses (29%) reported higher sales compared to last year while 41% of businesses remained at last year’s levels. However, a percentage (30%) of businesses recorded lower sales.

2. In half (48%) of businesses with improved sales, this increase was up to 10%. In businesses with reduced sales compared to last year, 55% of them show a sales decline of up to 20%.

3. Food and other retail businesses (books, toys, jewelry, sports, cosmetics and florists), i.e. economic activities related to the festive table and gifts, recorded better performances. In the same context, sales in clothing and footwear moved close to the average while the rise in home equipment was the weakest.

4. Despite the cumulative pressures inflation has put on prices and, by extension, disposable income over the last year, 34% of businesses have a very high very/very high level of satisfaction with holiday sales. Almost one in four is moderately satisfied, while 29% are a little or not at all.

5. One in three businesses (33%) seems very/very satisfied with the traffic in the stores, a development also due to the favorable weather conditions. A percentage of 22% was not at all to a little satisfied with the traffic, a result that is also related to the course of sales.

6. Traditionally, the best period for shopping was before Christmas (52%), a finding linked to the payment of Christmas presents to private sector employees by 21 December.

7. The impact of inflation on prices and increased operating costs has led to almost four in 10 businesses (38%) running promotions/discounts even during the festive season. In particular, 72% of the businesses that proceeded with discounts adopted a percentage that varied from 11% to 30%.

8. This finding explains, in part, that in half (51%) the cheapest commodities moved the most. A second explanation can be given by the fact that this choice was also dictated by inflationary pressures, combined with the need to exchange symbolic gifts.

9. For 2022 overall, the market presents a mixed picture compared to 2021, with positive responses outweighing negative ones.

10. Challenges and liquidity in the market makes businesses cautious about sales forecasts for winter sales in 2024. Half of businesses estimate that these sales will move at moderate levels, while one in four (24%) expect worsening.

11. Among the positives is the fact that more than half of the companies in the sample (53%) now have the possibility of remote sales, a development that signals that the digital transition is progressing.

12. Key factors fueling the uncertainty are, on the one hand, inflationary pressures on incomes and mainly the increased cost of suppliers, and on the other hand, the compression of the profit margin so that revaluations do not pass entirely to the final price. Indicatively, it is reported that for two out of three companies (64%) the cost of goods increased from 11% to 30%.

13. The most critical challenges/issues for business in 2023 include, in order of importance, increased operating costs, taxation and revaluation management.

The survey was carried out by telephone in 300 businesses between January 3 and 5