Shops and shoppers have been badly affected by the decision to keep people within their own municipalities as much as possible due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since the Junta de Andalucía brought the restrictions into effect over three weeks ago, businesses have seen the number of customers drop by 60 per cent, and shoppers have missed out on offers such as the Black Friday price reductions and are increasingly turning to online purchasing because they cannot get to shops in other towns.
The move has also come at the worst time of year for the retail sector, right at the start of the Christmas period. "There is no good time for these measures, but if they had come in February we would have coped better. As it is, it is terribly damaging for business," says Salvador Pérez of the Malaga Comercio federation. The limited opening hours, with non-essential shops having to close at 6pm, is also having an effect.
Major stores are also noticing the difference, such as Ikea, Leroy Merlin and shopping centres like Plaza Mayor. The manager of Ikea in Malaga, Linus Frejf, says people who live in the city account for about 35 per cent of visits and 25 per cent of sales, so the fact that nobody from outside the municipality can shop in the store has had a major impact. "For example, last week we sold less than half as much as we did in the same week last year," he says.
In Marbella, the number of visitors to La Cañada shopping centre has dropped by approximately 40 per cent, because many of its clients are from other places on the Costa del Sol. The manager, Javier Moreno, says he is optimistic by nature and hopes that the Junta de Andalucía will lift the restrictions from 11 December so things can start to get back to normal. "We won't make up for what we have lost, but at least we can start to lift our heads out of the water," he says.
It is a similar picture everywhere, and affects shops of all sizes. In Torremolinos, the president of the retailers' association, Juan Vallejo, says businesses cannot survive on local custom alone because there are so many of them and demand has dropped so much.
Retail businesses also fear that customers will get used to online shopping during the pandemic and won't return when the restrictions are lifted. "Businesses need financial help now to modernise their shops and carry out promotional campaigns," says Salvador Pérez, "otherwise there won't be anybody left to tell the tale when all this is over."