LA PLAZA, a new shopping centre in Ayamonte, just over the Spanish border, was officially opened by the city’s mayor Rafael González last Thursday.
Representing an investment of 120 million euros, the new centre has a modern design along the same lines as Forum Algarve in Faro and Algarve Shopping in Guia and hosts a supermarket, around 100 shops, a five-screen cinema and is served by a 300-space car park.
Located just five minutes from the Guadiana bridge and 10 minutes from the Portuguese city of Vila Real de Santo António (VRSA), the marketing slogan, “La Plaza Nos Une”, (The Plaza unites us), makes the centre’s strategy very clear.
In his speech, Gonzalez said: “This forms a commercial link between the two regions, as well as a social meeting point for the Portuguese and Spanish.” He said the centre would not be financially viable without the daily visits of the Algarveans, just like some investments in Portugal would not be possible without the contribution of Andalucian clients.
“We are destined to be linked commercially, socially and culturally,” he said.
The centre’s supermarket, operated by Mercadona, has been open since Christmas but other shops have been opening gradually this year, with many still to open.
Due to its proximity to the border, there are fears that commerce in the far eastern Algarve will be damaged, with thrifty Portuguese shoppers keen to take advantage of lower prices as IVA is 16 per cent in Spain compared with Portugal’s 21 per cent.
Resident reader Cynthia Reynolds from Tavira visited La Plaza with her husband on Friday.
“In my opinion, Forum Algarve is more attractive,” she said. “We’ll have to see what it’s like when it’s finished though, as over half the shops are still to open.
“We wouldn’t go regularly, but would probably go once every few months to stock up at the supermarket because prices are cheaper. I think it will be popular with the Portuguese as they can come to buy cheaper petrol and pick up some shopping at the same time. It probably will have a negative impact on retailers at this end of the Algarve.”
Brian Pickford, a British resident in Ayamonte said: “I personally think VAT rates should be the same across Europe and then we wouldn’t have this fight over customers.”
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