Search for solutions after surge in illegal street vendors in Costa resorts angers other traders

Hawkers pack up their wares on the seafront in Torremolinos.
Hawkers pack up their wares on the seafront in Torremolinos. / A. Gómez
  • A police report shows that the sale of fake branded goods and other items is an organised network, as legal business owners say local politicians need to do more to stamp it out

Owners of shops and market stalls have said they are fed up with the amount of illegal street vendors selling goods, mostly fake branded items, in the Costa’s seaside resorts.

Rosa María González, president of the Benalmádena business and traders association, has said that she is receiving daily complaints from members who “have to put up with the sale of fake products right on their doorstep and nobody does anything”.

She added that there are some areas, such as the Puerto Deportivo marina in the town, where “it’s difficult to walk”, referring to the large sheets that the illegal traders spread out on the pavement.

While the presence of people selling goods on the street to tourists is nothing new, this year numbers have noticeably increased.

The president of the Torremolinos business and traders association, Juan Vallejo, said: “The answer isn’t to arrest a few of the vendors a day, as they just return or others appear. We need to find better alternatives.”

He recalled that last year at a meeting of the local council and the sellers, some of whom are illegal immigrants, it was agreed to find a space for them to set up a small market to sell their goods, but, says Vallejo, “The town hall didn’t carry out its promise.”

Setting up dedicated zones where the illegal traders can operate is one of the solutions put forward to the growing problem. However critics point out that this would mean the sellers giving up one of their more lucrative sources of income, the sale of copies of luxury branded goods. In addition they would have to register as self-employed and pay social security.

Police overstretched

Police in the coastal resorts claim that they have limited resources to deal effectively with the problem, as the local population doubles during the tourist season and their resources are stretched.

When officers go to make their arrests, they find that vendors flee the scene, either leaving their goods or hiding them on the beaches, making it impossible to link what is being sold to a particular person. They also say that increasingly more of the sellers are officially resident in Spain, making it harder for them to deport offenders, who mostly come from west Africa.

Local Police in Benalmádena have carried out a study of how the groups operate which has uncovered that the sellers are highly organised with lookouts and getaway cars.

The local mayor, Víctor Navas, is asking for a change in the law to allow him to recruit more people in summer to address the problem.