“It is definitely necessary to rethink the issue of the ratio of people in stores in this moment of public health that we are experiencing. We have in Portugal the lowest ratio in Europe - five people per 100 square meters - unparalleled by any other member state at this time. Even countries that have another type of pandemic incidence have a higher ratio, usually at least twice as much as in Portugal”, said the general director of the APED during the presentation of the association's annual barometer.
For Gonçalo Lobo Xavier, this situation has “absolutely no reason” to continue, since “on the one hand, it jeopardizes the sustainability of businesses, especially in the specialized retail sector, and, on the other hand, it has no connection with reality and compliance with legislation and public health needs”.
“It is not in shopping areas that viruses are transmitted. There may be virus transmission if we insist on this stubbornness of not looking at the fact that the stores have made investments - estimated at 2% to 3% of the annual budget planned for 2020, according to APED - and are structurally prepared to receive more customers, but they are almost empty or with very little traffic”, he maintained.
According to the associative leader, the danger may be, “in days of great affluence, of having customers at the door lining up”, forming clusters of people that shopkeepers “cannot control”.
“This was resolved by increasing the ratio of consumers in stores, while maintaining the effectiveness of protecting consumers and our employees”, defends Gonçalo Lobo Xavier, stating that the association would be “very happy” if the ratio doubled (to 10 people per 100 square meters), but that “anything above seven [customers per m2] already gave a very interesting signal to the market”.
"Anything between seven and 10 was already enough to maintain the levels of balance and public health within the spaces, and gave another opportunity for stores to be able to have more traffic while all procedures were under controlled", he added.
Also claimed by APED are “greater clarity and planning” of the announced measures, in order to allow shopkeepers to adapt to the rules: “Announce measures on a Thursday and wait for a decree that leaves on Saturday at midnight, for the measures to take effect on Monday, it’s very complicated. It is necessary for the Government to understand that we have to plan the lives of our employees and the spaces of our stores and this creates a pressure that is not justified”, maintained Gonçalo Lobo Xavier.
The association also criticizes the fact that, “many times, the orders and decrees themselves are so dubious in their wording that they raise huge liabilities”.
“We need more clarity, so that we do not have to discuss the interpretations of the law with the authorities afterwards”, he complains.
According to data released today by APED, sales of food and specialty retail fell 1.5% last year compared to 2019, to 22,653 million euros, with an 8.1% increase in turnover in the food segment (to 15,621 million euros), failing to compensate for the 17.7% drop in specialized retail, to 7,032 million euros.
Despite the “severe impact” of the restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic in the different specialized retail markets, APED considers that the figures for 2020 show a “resilient sector”.