ATHENS – Apart from the obvious tragedy of so many people suffering and dying from COVID-19, the pandemic brought two lockdowns of non-essential businesses this year that could see nearly one in four not making it.
Some 23 percent of enterprises reported that they are at risk of failure after being shut down some 2 ½ months since a first lockdown in the spring and a second that began Nov. 7 and will extend until at least Jan. 7, 2021.
That was found in a survey by Opinion Poll for the Athens Professional Chamber (EEA) on Dec. 1418 from a sample of 1,002 Chamber of Commerce members, the plight worsened by staying shut through the holidays.
It’s far worse in the food sector of restaurants, bars, taverns and caterers, the number of those contemplating closing their business rising to 41.7 percent and many not even offering takeout or delivery during the lockdown.
Some 34 percent of retail stores, more than one in three, also may survive and there’s worry that there could be a third wave if too many people gather for Christmas, New Year’s and Epiphany Day, which would close stores again.
Those who stay open say it will be a struggle after having so many losses that can’t be recouped and if health protocols limit the number of customers or clients, although a holiday click-and-collect scheme that let people order online and pick up at stores has brought business..
Even if they don’t shut, 24 percent said they likely will have to cut staff, 49.5 percent for food businesses while it’s 22.7 percent for commercial enterprises who had to limit customers even when they were open.
Layoffs are more expected at larger companies or those with more than five employees, said Kathimerini in a review on the findings, going to as much as 40.4 percent for those with more than 20 workers.
That could see Greece return to the bad old days of record unemployment during a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis that saw half of those 18-34 out of work, thousands fleeing to other countries for a better life.
Pessimism and fear are ratcheting up too with the uncertainty over how long the pandemic’s grip will last, worry even that tourists won’t return in the summer of 2021 and further cripple the country’s biggest revenue engine.
One in four companies believe the economic crisis due to the pandemic will last more than two years, and another 27percent think it will be at least two years before life returns to normal.
Some 34 percent of corporations expect the crisis to last another year and only 11 percent are more optimistic, saying the crisis will be over in some six months or before next summer, the survey found.
“According to our own estimates, one in three enterprises may have opened for the last time and never reopen,” Giorgos Kavvathas, President of the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE), told the paper.
He added that the food service sector he also heads mostly considers that next year will be lost too, as unlike in the financial crisis that this time tourism won’t be able to help because it’s just as devastated from the fallout.