COVID19: Retail shops say business down by 30%

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Despite reopening after 50 days of Cyprus lockdown, retail shops have yet to generate their normal revenue with shop keepers reporting that business is down by at least 30%.

General secretary of shopkeepers’ union POVEK Stephanos Koursaris told the Cyprus News Agency that the market is still a long way from reliving the days prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

Retail shops and construction sites were allowed to reopen in the first phase of the lockdown exit on May 4.

He said shopkeepers are far from happy, as fewer people are visiting stores, with even fewer buying something off the shelves.

“The airports have been closed for two months now, which means no tourists, while more than 300,000 of our fellow citizens have seen their incomes slashed up to 40%,” said Koursaris.

He argued that while shops are disappointed at seeing less traffic, shopkeepers cannot afford to throw in the towel and are obliged to use imaginative methods to develop their entrepreneurship, and to offer different methods of service and discounts.

“This said, we were expecting that the state would be by our side offering direct help after being closed for two months.”

Koursaris argued that the government should be following the example of 24 other European countries which have directly helped businesses with cash injections.

He said shopkeepers were disappointed to see the government withdraw a bill on state-guaranteed loans, which also included a budget of €100 mln to be given to small businesses as one-off grants.

The bill would have seen small companies eligible for cheap loans worth €300 mln out of a total of €1.5 bln.

He also said businesses were worried about how they would pay their rent, operating expenses, taxes, social security, their employees’ salaries and buy stock.

“This uncertainty has led some businesses to despair, with a number of small shops considering closing altogether as they are unable to pay their bills. Some shops in tourist areas may not be able to open at all this year”.

Asked to comment on the reopening of coffee shops, bars and restaurants on Thursday, Koursaris said he had visited some of these businesses, noting that: “We are still far from the good old days”.