"This year we closed for five months, which in sales equals seven"
Shopping centres can reopen on Monday after being closed for six weeks
BarcelonaThey have lost Black Friday, and now all they have is to try to save the final stretch of the Christmas campaign. Oriol Vendrell is the co-owner of the Conti fashion store chain. He has 14 establishments in Catalonia, of which 12 are in shopping centres in the province of Barcelona, which have been closed for six weeks due to the restrictions decreed by the Generalitat to stop the pandemic. These restrictions will finally be lifted on Monday, as Procicat announced this Saturday.
"We have 90% of the turnover blocked", says Vendrell. To minimize the drop in sales he has rented a store temporarily in the centre of Sant Cugat, but adds that it is not a definitive solution, nor it covers all the losses suffered.
Vendrell regrets that due to the measures of the Generalitat companies like his have lost a significant part of the year's sales while some competitors have remained open: "This year we closed for five months, which in sales is equivalent to seven months. The Black Friday represents a month and a half of turnover, and everything we sell between November and December is equivalent to four months compared to the rest of the year", he explains.
The company has been able to mitigate the losses through the staff's furlough scheme, and also thanks to the decree law of the Generalitat on rents, which distributed the losses between the owners and the tenants.
"We were the first to close and we are the last to open. We have always accepted the measures, but the grievance we have suffered is obvious", said Vendrell. In fact, Catalonia is the only autonomous community where shopping centre establishments could not open during these days, unlike shops that are on the street or large department stores, which can do it with a limitation of a capacity of 30%. "It doesn't make sense that some department stores open as if nothing had happened and we are fenced in. If we play, we all play", he complains.
After the first wave of the pandemic, in June, shopping centres were able to open, despite capacity restrictions and improvements in ventilation and hygiene systems.
Vendrell does not understand why this time around the Catalan Government has kept the shopping centres closed for up to six weeks, since the danger of infection "is not smaller in a large area (a supermarket or department store) than in a shopping centres".
An aid for survival
The Spanish Association of Shopping Centres and Parks (AECC) has also claimed this Saturday the safety of shopping centres. The AECC has described as "very good news" that they can finally reopen from Monday on. "It does not normalize the complicated situation we are experiencing, but is an important aid for the survival of all shops and businesses in our spaces", the head of the entity in Catalonia, Victor Garcia, said in statements to the ACN.
Shopping centres can open with a maximum capacity of 30% and the obligation to ensure good ventilation of enclosed spaces, either through natural ventilation or through other systems. "The restrictions imposed make day-to-day management difficult, but we believe that this is not a problem", Garcia added.