This Christmas is shaping up to be an extremely disappointing one for Faro’s downtown businesses, which complain that their sales numbers are way below expected and that this may be their worst Christmas season in a long time.
“There are people that wait until the last day to do their shopping. But this year will be very bad. I hope I am wrong,” Rui Martins, owner of Relojoaria Farense, told national news agency Lusa.
When he started running his watch store 31 years ago, he said the “situation was very different”. But as more and more shopping centres started to open in the region, offering “easier parking and much more entertainment”, the paradigm started to shift.
Martins hopes that the four-star hotel that is due to open on Rua de Santo António will help turn things around, but for now he says the situation is dire as the streets become “deserted at 5.30pm”.
In a bid to attract more shoppers, some businesses have started offering 20% to 50% discounts.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything like this. We’re halfway through the month and I don’t see any improvements,” said Maria Carla Faria, who owns a clothing store in the area.
As Lusa points out, local businesses have “suffered with the opening of large shopping centres” and Faro’s downtown area “does not even have a toy store anymore”. The last one closed a few years ago to make way for a restaurant.
Nuno Rocha, owner of Retalhos de Portugal, says that restaurants are virtually the only businesses that are able to make ends meet.
He also laments that his store, which sells Portuguese products, is seen by locals as “for tourists” so they do not even “come inside”. “Today I sold €19-worth of product and yesterday €35,” Rocha said, lamenting that most people choose to shop at malls instead.
The lack of any anchor stores in the area is another issue that is highlighted by local business owners, who singled out the negative impact caused by the closure of the Zara clothing store on Rua de Santo António.
Celeste Conceição, who sells regional products at her store Dispensa Algarvia, has tried to use Christmas hampers as a way of attracting clients but to no avail. “This year I haven’t even sold one and we are less than two weeks away from Christmas,” she said.
Offering a different perspective is Maria João from Quinta Essência perfume shop who says that business owners “have to change their attitude, stop complaining and strengthen their human connection” with clients.
She says that while even the internet has become a threat to local businesses, her store’s sales haven’t decreased “that much”.