Retail closures help commercial centres?

According to data released this week which forms part of La Caixa´s Economic Yearbook of 2013, the Valencia region now has 6,627 fewer bars and restaurants than in 2012, around of 19%, with a total of 27,709 such venues being registered as operational at the end of 2012.

The study, based on data collated from 328 local municipalities, each with more than a thousand inhabitants, reveals that during the five years of economic crisis, one third of the towns and cities of the region, a total of 34%, have seen more than half of its bars and restaurants close down. Some of the bigger cities in the area have seen declines of up to 13% of the number of bars now open, with Valencia itself seeing a drop of 11%, Alicante down 10%, Elche dropping 6%, Castellón now has 13% fewer and Torrevieja has seen 7% of their bars and restaurants shut down.

However, the retail sector has suffered a bigger decline, with a total of 80,782 shops remaining open, a figure which represents a staggering drop of 28,732 over the same period, around 26% having closed their doors.

In contrast however, where smaller retailers have seen the obvious impact, it becomes clear that it may not simply be as a result of the economic crisis, as where small businesses have fallen, their larger counterparts are continuing to gain ground, quite literally. In the period of data collection, between 2007 and 2012, commercial centres have popped up on an additional 455,004 square meters of land, the equivalent of almost 34 football stadiums, including stands, now sitting on a total of 1,323,442 square metres, a staggering growth of 34.4% in the last five years.

The motoring sector continues to complain about the lack of trade in car sales, and yet there are now 131,000 more cars on the roads of the region than five years ago, a total of 5.2%, with 2,390,594 cars now on the roads.

In general, small business is declining in all municipalities of more than a thousand inhabitants across Valencia, except the town of Massalfassar, just north of the city of Valencia, where 2,388 residents, where small business has seen a 10% growth, albeit they now boast a total of 36 shops.

A total of 18 smaller villages have seen half of their businesses close in the last five years, including the local town of Jacarilla. Of the larger areas, those with more than 100,000 inhabitants, a total of one in five stores have now closed, with the city of Valencia having 4,077 fewer than the start of the survey, a total of 22% less, Alicante has seen 1,843 close their doors, down 23%, Elche now has 924 fewer shops, a drop of 20%, Castellón has suffered a drop of 823, of 20%, whereas Torrevieja has now seen 22% of stores close down, with 422 fewer than in 2007.

The suffering of local businesses does go some way as to explain why Torrevieja town hall had so vehemently opposed the granting of the liberalisation of Sunday trading in Orihuela, as they were supporting those local businesses who believed they would suffer as a result of the larger shopping centres in the neighbouring municipality being allowed to open, despite themselves permitting Sunday trading for “attractions” such as the Medieval Market, which could have quite easily offered additional revenue to the retail outlets in the city, should they have been allowed to trade.

However, it doesn´t now explain why Torrevieja has decided to do a u-turn on their support, having now applied for permission for Sunday trading, despite local retail association APYMECO having been vocal in their objection from the start. The application, which is likely to be granted in the interest of fairness and competition, will mean that all businesses in Torrevieja, including the Habaneras shopping centre and Carrefour supermarkets, which have both been blamed in the past for their contribution to the degradation of business in the centre, will also be able to trade.

With unemployment continuing to grow, excluding the seasonal falls as more jobs are secured for the summer, Sunday trading is set to create jobs in Orihuela, but the question the smaller businesses have is at what cost, as more of them are closing down, swallowed up and swamped by the centralisation of retail and leisure, seldom local, but often needing transport, as doors and windows are boarded up, home prices fall and communities are decimated by corporate retail giants.

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