Businesses suffer the “contagion” of preventive closings

Commerce, the activity that generates 18.4 percent of the provincial wealth (geographic gross product) and employs at least 180,000 people, is suffering a “blow” from the crisis triggered by the coronavirus.

How far will it go and what will be its final cost is something that the entities of the sector cannot predict, but among the bombardment of calls, its associates speak of a “catastrophic” situation.

This panorama is drawn by the headlines of the Córdoba Chamber of Commerce (CCC), José Viale, and the Córdoba Commercial Federation (Fedecom), Ezequiel Cerezo.

While the leaders put their energy into managing urgent aid to the governments, the data that they are beginning to reveal is overwhelming.

This week, the wave of “preventive closings” gained scale. Only in the downtown area (pedestrian and surrounding areas), a CCC survey found that, while only two shops did not open on Monday, between Tuesday and yesterday that number ranged from 175 to 200.

To this we must add an unquantified picture in other brokers. According to the cameras, the Capital gathers 40 thousand retail stores and the interior, another 60 thousand.

Starting today, the universe of low blinds must be added to the shopping malls, whose closure from zero and until Wednesday the 25th the Province ordered yesterday (excepted pharmacies and supermarkets).

Only the seven largest (Nuevocentro, Patio Olmos, Córdoba Shopping, Paseo del Jockey, Dinosaurio Rodríguez del Busto and the Lugones and Rivera walks) house at least 1,020 businesses, according to a survey of The voice in 2019.

The complexes already worked in limited hours and with part of their shops closed.

The objective of the official measure is to minimize circulation during the long weekend. From the CCC they reported that already on Tuesday downtown businesses had arranged not to open during the double holiday.

Cerezo pointed out that in the interior the wave of preventive closings is also strong, although it varies according to the localities and intersects with the various restrictions of the municipalities. Days ago, mayors of Greater Córdoba decided to limit the use of installed capacity of bars and restaurants to 50 percent, with a limit of 100 people.

No customers

There are three factors that are influencing: the preventive isolation measures optional or provided by law; the difficulties of having all the personnel, and the accelerated collapse of demand.

The first items that felt the blow were those that sell products considered “non-essential”: clothing, footwear, jewelry, toy stores, etc., which were already punished by the consumption crisis.

“Cordoba trade has 25 months in a row of year-on-year sales decline. The drop had begun to be cut in the last two, but with this everything changed, “lamented José Viale.

Cerezo agreed: “We constitute an emergency table at the national level, within the scope of the Came (Argentine Chamber of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises), and we are approaching requests for help from the authorities. The demands of the associates are multiple and dynamic ”.

The requests include declaring the emergency of the most affected sectors and, under this umbrella, deferring taxes, enabling soft loans and extending payment terms.

Also that compulsory work licenses for risk groups can be covered by the ART or, as a second option, by the Anses.

At the same time, the Nation was asked to regulate teleworking (home office) to gain certainty.

Recession: About rained …

Sales have been in negative territory for two years.

25 consecutive months of year-on-year drop in sales is the impact of the recession in shops in the city of Córdoba.

30% of the total of SMEs in Córdoba are dedicated to commercial activity. At the same time, in the field, most of the firms are in that category.

Concern about the cost of licenses

According to the latest available data from the Permanent Household Survey (as of the third quarter of 2019), in Greater Córdoba and in the Greater Río Cuarto, there are almost 140 thousand people from Córdoba who work in “wholesale and retail trade activities, and in repair of cars and motorcycles ”. 27 percent of them do so in informality.

For its part, the calculation of Fedecom is that the SME trade employs about 60 thousand formal dependents throughout the province, a figure that must be multiplied by at least three (180 thousand) if the most used structure is considered and is added to the owner of the local or to a close relative who also works.

Employment is a central variable in activity and, as such, also a pressing concern in the current context of economic crisis and coronavirus pandemic.

From the Córdoba Chamber of Commerce, they reported that 9.7 percent of the total employees in the sector in this city are 60 years of age or older and, therefore, are the target of the 14-day preventive license arranged for risk groups.

A floor that includes pregnant women, people with basic illnesses and employees who have to care for school-age children.

In the sector, they celebrate the relevance of the measures and assure that, even, many locals are taking extra precautions to protect their personnel, but they admit that there is widespread concern about the cost they will have and the difficulty they will have to cover it.

Hence, the sectoral entities present proposals to the national authorities such that the ART or the Anses can assume these costs, totally or partially. Another idea is the delivery of financial aid to shopping centers so that they can attend to urgent cases.

For its part, the Argentine Chamber of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MPM) asked that the Nation declare an “emergency” for that sector.

Print edition

The original text of this article was published on 03/19/2020 in our printed edition.