Four out of Ten Stores in Costa Rican Malls are now Closed

At least 40% of stores in Costa Rica’s shopping centers have closed their doors because of the COVID-19 restrictions says the retail sector. Many of them are likely gone for good.

Speaking on Wednesday morning’s CRHoy Enfoques online show, Julia Bonilla from Grupo Ceco confirmed this number in her own malls.

Grupo Ceco represents both Multiplazas (Escazu and Curridibat), Lincoln Plaza, Mall San Pedro, Multicentro Desamperados, Paseo de los Flores, Paseo Metropoli, City Mall, Oxigeno, and Terramall.

Normally, according to Bonilla, malls have around 8% to 10% of their commercial spaces unoccupied. Right now it’s a lot more than that.

“After 5 months of restrictions, there are massive closures,” she said.

She also pointed out how she couldn’t understand how other stores – not in shopping malls – could stay open. Pleading for government help, she said that her malls have established protocols and security measures.

Almost 2,000 people – just under 20% of shopping mall employees have lost their jobs since the pandemic started. Many stores, according to Bonilla, can no longer pay rent or bills and their electricity is being cut.

Across the entire Costa Rican retail sector, the restrictions have so far cost around 35,000 jobs since March.                                                                                                                                                                            

That’s according to Alonso Elizondo, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. On top of that, the sector has seen the suspension of some 33,000 labor contracts.

“The cases of COVID-19 are regrettable,” said Elizondo on Enfoques.

“When I see those numbers I’m scared, too. No one wants to get infected. We have families too, older relatives. We’re not immune.

“But we must understand the economic situation. There are people who are hungry today. How do we solve that without employment?” he asked.

Also speaking on Enfoque was Fedecamaras director Antonio Lopez who expressed concern about how massive store closures affect the entire economy.

“The government doesn’t understand that if commercial activity stops, then productive activity also stops. Costa Rica’s situation is serious and the government doesn’t understand it,” said Lopez.

The Costa Rican retail sector is set to receive even more pain next month as the government announced plans to shut down the GAM from August 10 to August 21. 

Mother’s Day in Costa Rica is on August 15 and is, according to the Chamber of Commerce, the third most important day of the year for commercial activity. 

In a statement on Wednesday, the chamber president Julio Castro called the mid-month shutdown unnecessary and called on the government to allow stores to open with hygiene protocols in place. 

Earlier on in the day, before the August 10-21 lockdown was announced, Julia Bonilla from Grupo Ceca had also spoken of the importance of Mother’s Day and how many of the remaining stores in her malls had inventory stocked up that they couldn’t sell.

This article was rewritten in English and adapted from the original in Spanish by Luis Valverde in CRHoy on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.

James Dyde is the editor of centralamerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.