The second wave of the coronavirus appears even more threatening than the first as far as economic sectors such as food service and retail commerce are concerned, as, unlike last spring, they now have no savings left to dip into and survive this new lockdown that has been imposed on the country to varying degrees.
Besides tourism, which has already taken a heavy blow from the reduction in holiday arrivals from abroad and domestic tourism, the catering sector, which employs about half a million people, is facing major sustainability issues, while retail – employing more than half a million workers – is also in a dire situation.
Food service businesses in the capital, Thessaloniki and 20 other regional units that are in red (emergency) or gray (lockdown) zones will have to close as of today. After the spring lockdown, the sector reopened with many limitations and never really got back into full swing as the absence of foreign tourists meant traffic in central Athens and many more popular destinations remained low.
Sector professionals tell Kathimerini that a number of restaurant owners are contemplating shutting down their enterprises for good, choosing not to utilize the government’s support measures, mainly those concerning contract suspensions for their workers and the 40% rent reduction. This is because once the sector is allowed to operate again layoffs will not be allowed and they will still have to pay 60% of the rent for a period during which they remained closed.
The option of delivery and takeaway services can only offset a small part of the losses. For the enterprises that were not previously involved in those activities, delivery and takeaway is estimated to cover just 10% of turnover losses.
Retail commerce, with the significant exception of supermarkets, has also entered a recessionary cycle. After the spring lockdown, the sector is now facing a second suspension of operations in the country’s second biggest city, Thessaloniki, and more is expected to follow.
The market estimates that the real drop in turnover (excluding supermarkets and tech commodities) amounts to 30% this year, with everyone fearing a general lockdown before Christmas.