ATHENS, Sept 24 Greece's deep recession has
forced almost a third of businesses in the capital's commercial
district to close down as shrinking incomes and frequent strikes
drive Athenians away.
Tens of thousands of small businesses, which make up a big
chunk of the struggling economy, have shut since Greece secured
a 110-billion-euro bailout package in 2010 in exchange for
promises of painful austerity measures.
On the capital's cobbled pedestrian shopping streets, long
lines of shops are boarded shut while others have "Everything
must go" signs plastered across their windows. Some arcades,
once bustling with activity, are empty and enclosed by derelict
In the city's "commercial triangle", where generations of
merchants had run successful businesses a stone's throw from the
central Syntagma Square, an August census by retail lobby group
ESEE found 31 percent of shops had closed.
That was up 13 percent from August 2010, just months after
the government secured the first of two multi-billion euro
international rescue packages.
The austerity measures and violent street protests against
tax rises and salary cuts have cast a shadow over small
businesses in the city, with demonstrations alone costing them
about four working hours a day, trade bodies have said.
"There are no signs that this percentage will fall and this
is very worrying," said ESEE head Vassilis Korkidis, estimating
that about 63,000 Greek businesses were at risk of closing down
within the next year.
He said 68,000 businesses in Greece had pulled down their
shutters since the beginning of 2011, with most closures driven
by high rents and a fall in the purchasing power of consumers
due to wage and pension cuts.
"It will be a very difficult winter - perhaps the toughest
in the last three years," Korkidis told Reuters. "Many
businesses will not make it."
While business has slowed across the city, it is less
evident in the wealthier suburbs where two of the capital's
biggest malls, home to many foreign designer brands, still
The study by ESEE also cited a difficulty getting funding
from banks as one of the main reasons behind the closures.
The number of shuttered shops on the capital's busiest
commercial streets, Panepistimiou and Stadiou, also hit a record
high in August, reaching 34.7 percent on Panepistimiou and 42
percent on Akadimias, up 14 percent in the last six months.
(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Toby Chopra)