The winter sales have started, though the small retailers expect business to be similar to last year.

03-01-2018Jaume Morey

Since 2008 and the onset of economic crisis, there has been a consistent annual decrease in the number of retail businesses in the Balearics. In 2008, there were 13,091. Last year, there were 10,654. However, the latest figures indicate that there was a slight increase in 2017. It was the first rise since 2008, even if this rise was only 27 over the figure in 2016.

The associations that represent the smaller retailers, Afedeco and Pimeco, believe that the Council of Majorca's plan for commercial centres is key to the survival of the small, local retailer. Both recognise that improved economic conditions have encouraged the opening of shops, but the number is still way down on what it was pre-crisis.

But as significant as the vagaries of the economy have been the increase in the number of retail franchises and online shopping. Francisco García of Anged, the association for the larger retailers, points to the extent to which the internet has gained ground. Although consumers still want to go to shops, market research by Nielsen shows that 52% of consumers seek information on the internet before making purchases. Consumers, García explains, can get all the information they need, and they want rapid service as well as a more personalised shopping experience.

The regional government, via the trade ministry and the consumer affairs department, offers assistance for developing internet business to the smaller, local traders, but the associations acknowledge that they themselves need to do more in this regard.

There is also the issue of rents. In the centre of Palma, for instance, smaller retailers have been squeezed out because of the high rents and the well-known brands that have moved in. The town hall has approved tax measures to try and help "emblematic" businesses in the city, but it is questionable how much difference these will make.

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