The famous Calle San Miguel is no longer the busy shopping street that it was a few years ago. :: ñito salas
There are more overnight stays but business in the town centre is suffering badly from the effects of the crisis
The street called Calle San Miguel, the principal symbol of the economic boom in Torremolinos only a few years ago, is no longer what it was. This, the town’s main shopping street, the one which companies from all over Spain had in their sights, is having a difficult time. Many of the luminous signs that gave colour to the street have been replaced by ‘For Sale’ or ‘To Let’ posters. The effects of the crisis are so palpable in this area of the coast that even the biggest names have left, and numerous local businesses have gone with them.
As well as huge chains like McDonald’s, Zara, Mango and Carrefour, local shops which had been established for many years, such as Manferga, Glamour Tobaruela and El Goloso, have also closed down and this is in a tourist resort where the hotels stay open for most of the year. According to figures from the National Institute of Statistics, there are more overnight stays in this municipality than in any other in Malaga province. In 2012, there were 4,627,000, nearly twice as many as in Marbella. This is, without a doubt, the great paradox of Torremolinos.
The annual economic report by La Caixa for 2012 - the latest year for which figures are available - showed that there were 1,262 retail businesses in Torremolinos compared with 1,360 the year before. However, these figures are very different from the 1,786 shops that were open at the end of 2008. Pedro Pérez, secretary of the Association for Development of Torremolinos, calculates that at present about 2,000 premises are for rent, which means that “50 per cent of the businesses in the municipality have closed”.
What these figures really illustrate is that the main problems of this municipality are in the town centre, which in the 1980s was the commercial epicentre of the province and frequented by purchasers of all nationalities. At present, Calle San Miguel barely manages to maintain this commercial pulse, which has been lost by others such as Palma de Mallorca, Casablanca and the shopping passageways that lead off the Plaza de Andalucía. The activity is now limited to the area near the Town Hall and along the seafront promenades.
Call for help
This deterioration in commercial activity in the town centre has led business owners to call for help. Cristina Jiménez, who owns the shop called Spagnolo, in the Avenida Palma de Mallorca, makes her feelings clear: “Torremolinos is dying; there have never been so many shops with so little activity”. She has been observing the local scene for the past nine years, and says she has “never seen so many shops closed in Calle San Miguel; the franchises have left and traditional shops are dying because there is no help for them”.
Cristina says it is a shame that the town centre is becoming abandoned. She explains that local residents, those who shop in the town all year round, are doing so in El Calvario - the area closest to the town hall - while the tourists are staying on the coast: “Only tourists without much money come here, they are on a tight budget and their meals are already paid for”, she says.
Conchi Romero, the owner of the Licores Romero shop, is one of those who has been longest in Calle San Miguel and has first-hand experience of the gradual drop in demand. “We are all suffering from the crisis; in this street there is only activity in the summer, and only because of tourists”, she says. However, she stresses that shop owners are trying to keep going, in the hope that the good weather will bring more visitors.
Shop owners are also wondering why the crisis, which ought to affect everywhere equally, is hitting Torremolinos harder than most. Juan Galán, who has been selling flowers in the Pasaje de Goloso for 30 years, believes the town centre needs to be brought to life.“The politicians should organise activities to attract people here, so that everyone knows that there are things to do here”, he says. And although he doesn’t deny that household finances have worsened considerably, “other places, like Benalmádena, Fuengirola and Malaga, are still busier than here”, he points out.
Bringing life to the sector
At the town hall, this commercial crisis is blamed on the lack of regeneration in the sector. In his end of year message the mayor, Pedro Fernández Montes, urged shop owners to take a look at their businesses because “consumers’ tastes are no longer the same as they were ten years ago,” and he pointed out that the shopping area is now more widespread.
The Association of Business Owners in Torremolinos blames the problem almost entirely on “a lack of quality tourists”. Juan Vallejo, the secretary of the association, says that “if tourists don’t come, or those who come don’t spend, that is not the responsibility of local politicians”. He points out that Torremolinos is not the only town in which shops are closing down, and that franchises “are also moving out of many other shopping areas”.
The socialists on the council have organised several campaigns to propose improvements for the commercial sector. The group’s spokesman, José Ortíz, believes the town centre needs to be brought to life in order to recover its traditional level of activity. “Facilities have to be provided, streets should be made traffic-free and there should be plans to attract people here, like in Malaga”, explains Ortíz.
Meanwhile, the commercial crisis in Torremolinos is, and has been for some time now, a subject of discussion all over the town.