ATHENS – The first Sunday openings for retail stores in major cities at the height of Greece’s tourist season has brought disappointing sales, the head of the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE), Vassilis Korkidis said.
“Trade in Athens was mediocre, in Thessaloniki it was probably satisfactory, while in Piraeus it was disappointing,” he said. “Apart from the malls and discount villages, the winners on Sunday were stores in Larissa and Patra, which remained closed.”
Korkidis, however, noted that the summer sales were only at the start and that trade may pick up over the next few weeks.
Many stores in Athens and Thessaloniki opened for a second Sunday in a row as they also welcomed customers at the end of the previous week after the government passed a law allowing shops in 10 parts of the country to open every Sunday despite vehement protests from critics who even yelled at customers, particularly at a popular shopping and tourist area in central Athens, Ermou Street.
Stores remained open on Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., one of seven Sundays of the year, amid protests, including a 24-hour strike called by store personnel and low turnover. Some supermarkets opened while others didn’t adding to the confusion.
The government, pressed by its international lenders, allowed the openings on Sunday, which had been a taboo fought by the Greek Orthodox Church as well, to try to create more revenues. Many stores are also closed several weekday afternoons and nights, including pharmacies, which are also shut on weekends except for those open on a rotating basis.
There are seven Sundays of the year in which stores throughout Greece must be open, according to a 2013 law, while another regulation requires stores to remain open on all Sundays of the year in selected areas of Greece, such as popular tourist destinations, in a test program that will be reviewed for possible application throughout Greece.
The Athens Commerce Association stood by its resolution to have stores open only seven Sundays a year, including July 20 although store employees refused to work the previous week to protest the year-round openings.
Meanwhile, sales started on July 14 to run until August 30, one of two designated sales period during which stores are allowed to mark down prices, but even that had done little to help offset poor sales during a crushing economic crisis which has seen scores of thousands of businesses shuttered.
The seven Sundays, from November 2013 to July 2014, do not appear to have increased turnover, volume, job opportunities or wages, according to a study by ESEE that will be published this coming week.
Speaking to ANA-MPA, Korkidis said that there were stores that did not open on Sunday, and said the Sunday opening of stores must be targeted.