Trade is starting to find its pace after several years, a fact confirmed by the results of a survey carried out by the Athens University of Economics and Business for the Athens Chamber of Commerce, with the end of the winter sales.

As Makis Savvidis, vice-president of ESA and vice-president of GRECA, reports to APE-MPE, approximately 60% of businesses in the greater Athens area managed to improve their turnover during the winter sales compared to last year, while they expect increased sales in the coming period . “However, we should not forget that, according to the same survey, 1/3 of the businesses state that they did worse, compared to last year” Mr. Savvidis notes and adds: “This percentage is found in very small businesses and in the regional markets which are slowly weakening. It is important to see how we can deal with this fact.”

Focusing on the most important issues that have been indicated by the commercial world and which are a brake on the further development of the sector, Mr. Savvidis emphasizes that they concern political stability and the financing of small and medium-sized enterprises. Specifically, he clarifies that the upcoming elections are estimated to affect the consumer movement in the market as well as the psychology of consumers, once again testing the endurance of businesses. At the same time, traders who form the core of small and medium entrepreneurship are concerned about the non-existent financing from the banking system which continues to threaten the survival of businesses.

Meanwhile, as uncertainty in the economic environment increases, consumers, with their disposable income under pressure, are increasingly focusing on product prices. In this context, Mr. Savvidis notes that there is pressure on the supermarket basket, but the picture is a little different in other sectors, except food. “We absorb a large part of the increases in raw materials and transportation despite the challenges” he emphasizes and adds: “The commercial sector has restrained prices and has not passed on the increased energy costs. Once again it is sitting back and not taking advantage of the situation to raise prices, as is the case in other industries.”

Focusing on electronic markets, Mr. Savvidis emphasizes that electronic commerce continues to occupy an increasing percentage of sales while competition intensifies with European companies seeking to operate in the country. According to him, “Greek e-commerce does not move individually but cross-branches (Omnichannel). One in five Greek commercial enterprises (20%) have an electronic channel, i.e. 90% are an extension of a physical store. Thus, in order to complete a purchase, the consumer makes a cycle between physical and online stores. Specifically, he orders a product online and receives it from the physical store and vice versa.” In fact, Mr. Savvidis points out that 2022 was the first year that Greece as a country broke the record of internet usage among the general population reaching 81%. It is noteworthy that of those who use the internet, 72% made some kind of electronic transaction, a positive and very encouraging fact.

The expectations of the commercial world are increasing

48.2% of merchants in the greater Athens area see an improvement in their turnover during the winter sales, while 20.3% expect the same turnover compared to last year, according to the results of a survey carried out in 350 businesses and shops in Athens and regional markets from the Athens University of Economics and Business for the Athens Chamber of Commerce. At the same time, moderate optimism is recorded for the next period with more than six out of ten traders expressing expectations for increased sales in the next period.

Commenting on the investigation by the Athens Chamber of Commerce, the president of ESA Stavros Kafounis stated, among other things, that “continuation of targeted support is required with substantial measures to ease the operating costs of all businesses, reduction of non-salary costs, total abolition of the memorandum of association fee and -at the same time- vigilance to modernize businesses at a faster pace”.

In conclusion, almost 7 out of 10 declared a better (48.2%) or the same (20.3%) turnover as in 2022, but a percentage of 31.4% recorded worse results. The majority of stores in the sample, 6 out of 10, belong to the Clothing – Footwear – Accessories category, which have a primary role in the discount period. More than 6 out of 10 points of sale in the sample operate within the boundaries of the Municipality of Athens.

Hope for a change in the climate and a return to growth is captured by the expectation of more than 6 in 10 respondents that their sales will increase in the next six months. It seems that in this particular time period, the uncertainty of the upcoming elections and the difficult to predict behavior of the consumer public in the next quarter, has highlighted political stability as the most important factor affecting the operation of commercial enterprises. It follows the perennial SME funding/liquidity problem that has plagued the business world for the past decade.

It is noted that the reduction of energy costs, which was in the foreground for quite some time, is no longer considered the most important factor and affects less than 2 out of 10 traders, specifically the largest and most energy-intensive units.

The security against delinquency is strongly observed only in the shops that operate in the burdened areas of the center of Athens and more specifically in the areas around Omonia, Exarchia and the commercial area on the axis of Patisia and Acharnon streets as well as in the tourist area around the Acropolis.

Finally, the transition to the digital age seems not to be a priority for commercial enterprises and this is a matter that, according to the research, should concern the central administration and the professional bodies of the sector, because the development of trade is inextricably linked to the digital upgrading of businesses.