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[WATCH] Shopping picks up as COVID-19 measures relaxed but lack of tourists remains problem

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‘Business is picking up’ – Chamber of Commerce president visits Valletta shops

Shoppers are showing increased confidence, according to Valletta retailers but the lack of tourists continues to be an issue as Malta lifts COVID-19 restrictions.

Retailers were cautiously optimistic about their prospects in conversations they had with Chamber of Commerce president David Xuereb during a brisk walkabout this morning in the capital.

Xuereb was visiting retail outlets in Republic Street, the first day when all shops were allowed to reopen, and clothes stores can let customers use changing rooms to try on outfits.

Almost all COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted as of today, including bars, gyms and entertainment outlets, as long as they observe safety conditions.

“Things are going well, to be honest. We’ve opened changing rooms today and our staff are disinfecting them after each use,” one clothes shop manager told Xuereb.

When the restrictions on clothes shops were initially lifted, the use of changing rooms was barred. This has now changed.

“Things are ramping up. Customers trust us – they see that we have sanitisers available and are taking all necessary precautions,” a perfume shop owner said.

A jewellery shop manager remarked that things had been going “really well” and customers were following all precautions.

However, another jewellery shop, just a few metres down the street, lamented that the lack of tourists was a major issue.

“The void created by the fact there is no tourism is difficult to fill. But at least locals are starting to come. Now that events such as weddings are allowed, they have a reason to buy something. When they were stuck at home they had no reason to spend,” he said.

The same sentiment was expressed by an ice cream shop operator. “It’s still slow… We are hoping that when the airport reopens things will improve Valletta depends a lot on tourism. In our case, 70% of customers are usually tourists.”

In comments to the press, Xuereb said that it was evident that while business was restarting, it was not yet back to where it was before the pandemic.

Customers’ confidence had to keep being built up, he said.

Xuereb praised shops for being responsible and following all health authorities’ measures to protect against the virus.

“Some shops have not reopened yet because they have not yet done all the work needed to be in conformity with the precautionary measures. This shows how seriously they are taking the matter,” he said.

He added that the Chamber was expecting the government to use its available funds to keep helping retailers.

On Monday, government is expected to unveil a mini-budget, which is being billed as an economic recovery plan.

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