PORTUGAL’S SMALL retail businesses have lost 45,400 jobs in just two years, according to the Portuguese Confederation of Commerce and Services.
The organisation’s president, José António Silva, said that the sector had lost the largest number of posts since the April 25 Revolution.
Particularly affected are small shopkeepers such as grocers, butchers, greengrocers, haberdashers, and small clothes and shoe shops as shopping tastes change and customers increasingly buy products from large shopping centres, chain outlets and hypermarkets.
By December 2006, five Portuguese metropolitan districts overtook the European average in terms of the number of large shopping centres per capita, which now represent 1,100 square metres for every 1,000 inhabitants. These were Faro, Setúbal, Coimbra, Porto and Braga, joining Lisbon, Porto and Santarém, which have long been above the European average.
It is estimated that, in 2008, Portimão will be 500 per cent above the European average while in the last few weeks five new large area shopping centres were granted licences in the Mirandela area. According to José António Silva, the shopping centre phenomenon is “causing enormous social imbalance and the first major collapse in the sector since 1974” with a negative impact on employment as more employment is destroyed than created.
One solution which would help small shopkeepers would be laws to prohibit Sunday opening, as is the case in Spain.
In the Algarve, where the Albufeira district has more shopping centres per capita outside Lisbon and Porto, the tendency of small retail businesses going bust is particularly felt.
“We haven’t got any specific numbers, but we do have feedback from our association members who report a spiralling number of shops going out of business,” said Gilberto de Sousa, President of the Algarve Commercial Association.
“We’re faced with a huge problem on our hands of a large number of shopping centres and others which already have planning permission. It’s simply monstrous and there are no grounds for their approval on the basis of studies,” he complained.
In Santarém, where two weeks ago it was announced that a large 8,500 square metres commercial retail park, including a hypermarket, is to open in the near future, the phenomena looks set to continue.
“We’ve got 1,100 associate members and since 2004 there have been 479 bankruptcies with a resulting loss of 1,100 jobs,” said Paulo Moreira of the Santarém Commercial Association.
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