Faro’s downtown merchants are pessimistic about sales forecasts in the coming days before Christmas, there are even those who point to it being the worst holiday season of recent years.
“Some people keep it to the last day to shop, but this year I think it will be very bad. I would like to be mistaken,” lamented Rui Martins, owner of Relojoaria Farense. He is one of several shopkeepers with whom Lusa spoke. When he took over the business 31 years ago, the situation “was quite different”, but it changed with the emergence of large areas where, he says, “parking is easier” and where there is “much more entertainment” that attracts the clients.
This issue has only been amplified by the advent of online shopping.
The store is located in the middle of Rua de Santo António, in front of a future four-star hotel. Mr. Martins hopes that the new building will bring more movement and “tourists seeking possessions” but, for now, the scenario is “very dark”. “The streets were deserted”at 5:30 pm”, he said.
Rua de Santo António is the main shopping street in the historic city centre, and one of several in the Faro downtown pedestrian-access-only area. For years it was the main reference of local commerce.
To try to counteract the weak sales, some storefronts have introduced large discounts that leave them with little profit. This is the case of Maria Carla Faria’s clothing store: “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything like this in the middle of the month, it’s not good and I don’t foresee improvements”, she said.
She hopes that the discounts will bring her more customers, but think that this year is simply “difficult to understand” as even her colleagues working in shopping centre have “complained about it.”
There is no doubt that these small local businesses have suffered from the emergence of large retailers, particularly in recent years.
“It is these establishments whose number has been increasing in the city center” says Nuno Rocha, owner of the shop Patchwork of Portugal.
His shop is dedicated to selling Portuguese products perceived by locals as being “for tourists”, so “they don’t even come in”, not even to buy some special gifts for Christmas, he said.
“Today I made 19 euros and yesterday 35. I can’t keep the shop open like this. They all run to the shopping centres,” said the shopkeeper.
The absence of well-known shops which draw people to the city centre, is another problem that he pointed out, giving as an example the closure of the Zara shop in Rua de Santo António, which had consequences which were felt in all local commerce.