The general feeling on the ground is that sales in Malta have dropped by around 50-60% over the past year, the President of the Chamber of Commerce has said.
Interviewed on Lovin Daily this morning, David Xuereb was asked about recent Eurostat figures which claim the volume of retail trade in Malta in December 2020 was 3.3% higher than it was in December 2019 despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the government said these statistics show its aid packages are truly making a difference, the Chamber of SMEs has cast doubt on the findings, warning the sentiment of retailers has never been so negative.
“There were certain retail sectors that did better last December than they did the previous year, but retail in general couldn’t have done better,” Xuereb said today. “I don’t know what the Eurostat statistics were based on, maybe their measurements were very sub-sectorial, but the general feel is that retail in general is down by anything between 50-60% from the previous year.”
The Chamber of Commerce president urged retailers to adapt to COVID-19 realities, such as by ensuring they have an online presence.
“Non-online sales and areas that have become relatively unnecessary in a COVID-19 world have suffered. The future of retail relates to the need to be connected to the customers’ true needs in a COVID-19 environment.”
“I don’t think this way of conducting ourselves and relating to each other is going to change any time soon. Retailers’ ability to address these new needs in a contactless environment is probably what will save them. On the other, spending power and confidence by consumers is also important. We must see how this will pan out.”
Xuereb also welcomed a recent proposal by Opposition leader Bernard Grech for the government to incentivise people to buy furniture at cheaper prices.
“I think there can be value in this proposal,” he said. “Moving towards a zero carbon economy, we should incentivise people to purchase second-hand items, furniture, clothing, and apparel.”
“I think we can restructure our circular economy and the way we spend our money; even the current voucher incentives focuses solely on food and specific retail apparel like clothing is limiting.”
“I think people’s real needs today are even more basic than that and furniture could be one of them, so I can see the reason and value behind the proposal.”