by Dika Agapitidou, Director, JLL – Athens Economics ltd*

It is common to see savings surge and consumption decline in times of acute uncertainty; therefore, it comes as no surprise that the pandemic outbreak, swiftly followed by restrictions on circulation and market activity, undermined the performance of both retail and food & beverage.

In turn, these developments impacted the buildings accommodating such uses, both qualitatively and quantitatively, as discussed further down.

Indicatively:

  • The retail volume index slipped by 2.8% during the first 10 months of 2020 vs the first 10 months of 2019, and if we are to exclude fuel, the drop is marginal at 0.4%.
  • However, retail sales outpaced expectations in October 2020, with the overall volume of retail trade index increasing 4.7% (and 8.6% excluding fuel) y-o-y in Greece, largely on the back of a9% rise in pharmaceutical and cosmetic products and a 20% rise in books, stationery & other goods.
  • The government was quick to comprehend and react to the negative impact for retailers, passing a law that temporarily alleviated their rental payments by 40%, and adopting further support measures towards the year-end.
  • Not surprisingly, the lockdown conditions accelerated the switch to electronic transactions – a qualitative change which is here to stay – with households increasingly turning to e-consumption and thus triggering the digital transformation of businesses, at least for those who do not want to miss the train.

Indicatively:

According to data from the Hellenic E-Commerce Association, 16% of consumers made online purchases for the first time since the pandemic outbreak, while 60% of consumers (up from 40% before the pandemic) are now reportedly willing to continue buying all categories of products from online stores.

The Association of Business and Retail Sales of Greece estimates that one out of ten companies is now operating its own e-shop, in line with the new digital culture, and that online sales amounted to € 25 billion in 2020.

On the other hand, the surge of the e-commerce market is expected to trigger the establishment of large new players and thus increase competition.

Retail business expectations dimmed significantly during the pandemic, reaching -22.1 points in December 2020 and down from +22 points in December 2019 – but still at a distance from the lowest level attained in July 2015 (-25.9 points).

Such developments led to a softening of both prime rents and yields and brought about a widening of the gap between prime and secondary space.

The food & beverage sector was dealt the worst blow, with the Hellenic Confederation of Commercial & Related Professions estimating that in the Greater Athens area alone some 40% of businesses, ie, 32,000 out of 80,000, are likely not to reopen the next day.

However, the vaccine roll-out which kicked off in December 2020 has started to dampen both corporate and consumer pessimism, paving the way for a return to normalcy towards end-2021.

Moreover, on the upside, a significant number of companies, international and domestic alike, have been bucking the trend; indeed, several leasing transactions that had been negotiated/ agreed prior to the covid-19 outbreak materialized in the course of 2020.

We are aware of certain international chains currently scanning the high street market in the most popular areas, such as downtown Athens, Glyfada, Peristeri, Iraklio & Thessaloniki. Our estimates point to an approximate take up of 40,000 sq m across the country. Noteworthy cases in point include:

  • New retail stores Ralph Lauren (within new MGallery hotel in Syntagma), Gucci (Panepistimiou), Intersport (Ermou), Cosmos Sport (Ermou), Gregio (Glyfada), Labrini (Glyfada), Decathlon (River West), JCou watches (Panepistimiou), Kiko Milano (The Mall Athens), Maje (Golden Hall), Hotel Shops (Halandri), Jysk (Kifissos, Metamorfossi & Kallithea), Kafkas (Vyronas), Parabita (Halandri).
  • Ground floor retail space was also lease by Optima Bank (Nea Ionia), Massoutis (Kalyvia), Pet City (Ambelokipi), small IKEA (Piraeus), Nails 4 You (Ambelokipi, Nea Smyrni) & Protergia (Glyfada).
  • Newcomers belonging to the F&B sector include Cutlivos Coffee (Piraeus, Kolonaki, Psyrri, Korydallos, Pagrati), Proedros souvlaki (Kifissia), Overall Croissanterie (Praxitelous), Kora Bakery (Kolonaki), Ourse patisserie (Glyfada) and Sweet (Paleo Faliro).
  • Not surprisingly, courier services have sought to expand their networks to meet surging demand, eg, DHL (Glyfada), Speedex (Ambelokipi), ACS (Halandri).
  • The relocation of stores such as Tod’s (within new MGallery hotel in Syntagma), Anna Riska and Folli Follie (Kifissia), Anna Maria Mazaraki (Kanari) & Moustakas (River West).
  • New stores within big box schemes, such as Leroy Merlin, Intersport & McDonald in the new complex on Kifissos (former Mouzaki textile factory).
  • In Thessaloniki, new stores were opened by Zakcret, Dust & Cream, Sneaker10, Paradossiako (f&b), Gregorys (4 new stores) and Optima Bank. Kafkas opened in Komotini, Jysk in Serres and Massoutis in Patra & Thesprotia (2 new stores), Watt+Volt in Chios, Beauty Free in Chania. Soon, Kiko Milano is expected to open a store at Cosmos in Thessaloniki, while with the new year, Berry’s is setting up new stores in Greater Athens and Thessaloniki.

Consecutive lockdowns and widespread restrictions have undoubtedly enhanced large retailers at the expense of small ones, due to the formers’ comparative advantage on the distribution front.

Supermarkets and pharmacies, as well as – to a lesser extent – tech retailers, were among the few sectors that were positively impacted by the situation throughout 2020. Indeed, Nielsen reports a 2020 y-o-y 9.7% rise in turnover for supermarkets, which they are gradually being turned into multi-stores and service providers (eg, re banking) as well as electric vehicle charging spots.

Regarding shopping centre performance, the latest data released by Lamda Development for 2020 H1 show that average occupancy for The Mall Athens, Golden Hall, and Mediterranean Cosmos remains close to 98%. Not surprisingly, though, the restrictions imposed in the aftermath of the pandemic outbreak have led to a contraction in both total store turnover and total shopping centre footfall during 2020 H1 (-43.2% and -47.0% respectively, compared to the corresponding period of 2019).

Against this backdrop, shopping centre store viability would not have been possible without the support of mall management, which has generally demonstrated understanding and flexibility across the country. On the other hand, are scheduled to be added to the approximately 50 shopping centres with a total GLA of 955,677 sq m currently operating in our country.

*Dika Agapitidou, has a background in economics, planning and econometrics and is the Founder and Director of Athens Economics – JLL Alliance Partner. Athens Economics was set up in 1993 and provides commercial real estate and economic research/advice as well as valuation and agency services.

The article was published in the the January/February 2021 issue of Greek Business File, available here