Local shops resilient despite online pressure
Main Street shop owners said trade remained strong in the run-up to Christmas, despite a surge in online shopping.
The ease of online purchasing means many people opted for a click of the mouse instead of a walk down Main Street.
But while one courier reported a 100% increase in parcel volumes in the weeks leading to Christmas, Main Street traders said their business was resilient despite tough competition from the likes of Amazon.
Mukesh Jaswani, the owner of Sonic Electronic on Main Street, told the Chronicle that online shoppers had hit his sales.
“It affects our business yes, it is very competitive, and especially for us because we do a lot of different types of products.”
“We bring gadgets and a lot of distinct products that we go to big shows to find, but at times online beats us to it.”
“The problem here is logistics, they are the worst that you can imagine, so it’s the import duty and the logistics into Gibraltar in comparison to other European countries is more expensive, in some cases three to four times.”
“Is it affecting us? Yes of course it is but as long as we maintain ourselves with distinct products, being unique and customer service goes a long way also,” he added.
However, it is not all negative news from Mr Jaswani, who also noted that he has had sales mainly because local people support him.
“We have been united with the Gibraltar people and they in turn have been supporting all the businesses, so that is a good and positive thing," he said.
“As long as the people of Gibraltar support the businesses and the economy I don’t think there should be a problem.”
While sales of some goods on Main Street may lose out to online retailers, some businesses are noting an increase in purchases of particular items.
Netgear Ltd , with two shops on the Rock, has reported an increase in the sales of televisions and computers.
“We have seen a lot of new TVs being bought because people are in new homes at Beach View and Mons Calpe, and generally we find when people get a new home and a new TV they want other things new also, so they buy a computer and a new mobile,” said store manager Adolfo Morant.
Us For Toys on Main Street said that it has not been affected by internet sales this year.
The shop manager credited this to the fact that this year there are a lot of toys children and parents want to see and touch and sometimes do not want to wait for them to be delivered.
Items that are rarely affected by online sales are “shoes, clothes and high end jewellery” said Edward Macquisten, Chief Executive of the Chamber of Commerce.
He notes that no local shops will ever have the buying power of Amazon or the variety, but counter this with “availability and customer service”.
In essence, “price, convenience and warranty” are the main factors that influence purchases, he said.
Mr Macquisten believes it is up to everyone in the community and in their interest to keep Main Street occupied with successful businesses.
“If we lose Main Street we lose the heart of the city, on a Saturday morning it is full of vibrancy and it is where the community comes together," he said.
“We need to keep it alive, because it is precious and it will only remain if the people support local business.”
“People want competition, variety and choice on the one hand but fail to make the connection as to how that affects the local economy, which pays for schools, pensions, hospitals etc.”
It is essential that we “prevent economic leakage”, said the Chief Executive.
One company benefiting from online sales is DHL, which “some days see an increase in volume of 100%,” and this has been the case since November said Martin Forde from the courier company.
While November and December are busy months for DHL the increase is on a par with other years, in addition not all parcels are for individuals some of the deliveries are to traders on Main Street.
Mr Forde expects his depot will be very busy right up until it receives its last cargo on December 23, from this week onwards he has extended the opening ours with staff members working overtime to complete all deliveries in time for Christmas Day.
Following the EU referendum in the summer, the exchange rate for the pound to euro has affected businesses and individuals alike, albeit sometimes positively.
“Ever since Brexit it brought shivers down people’s spines thinking what will happen to Gibraltar with reference to our union to Europe, it was more panic than anything else. We had expected to stay in Europe and the main concern was the border,” said Mukesh Jaswani from Sonic Electronic.
However, “sales maintained itself pretty well, the rate had gone down but we had already stock purchased when the pound was strong, so in that respect the sales were good. For Europeans it was favourable because the prices they were getting were much cheaper than they would get in Europe.”
He also noted that once that stock goes and shops have to restock then businesses are back to where they started.
“The Euro and the dollar always affect the price no matter where you are buying it from,” he added.