Spotlight: COVID-19 casts shadow on Black Friday in Malta
The special discounts for Black Friday offered by retailers in Malta were not appealing enough to attract customers to step out of their houses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Restriction measures, surging new cases and pandemic-induced uncertainties such as slashed salaries all cast a shadow on this year's Black Friday, according to the Malta Chamber of SMEs.
"I don't have money to spend on these things. I barely have enough to buy food for my family and pay my bills. It's not easy," said Marlon Bugeja, a customer with no bags in hand sitting in a cafeteria.
The worst-hit were shops that specialize in elegant or occasional wear, which usually see a boost in business before Christmas.
Fashion retailer Jeremy Muscat told Xinhua that this year's Black Friday was eerily quiet despite the special discounts and offers.
"There were fewer people than yesterday. I usually have long queues outside my shop ... I cannot say I'm satisfied with my sales today," he said.
Sonia Micallef, a salesgirl selling sporting goods, said her shop was not busy, despite the 25-percent off for clothes and 50-percent off for sports gear.
"We've had busier Black Fridays. (But this year) people are just going to work and back home. They're simply staying away from crowds," she said.
In the face of the grim turnover, some businesses extended their Black Friday offers to cover the weekend and some of them until Monday.
"At least we hope to make up for losses over this weekend and the run-up to Christmas. The year of 2020 is the year of disruptions. Let's hope we'll have a better 2021," a business owner in the city of Sliema, who preferred to be anonymous, told Xinhua.
Retailers of electronic goods face a relatively better situation because people are spending more time at home, so they tend to purchase new home appliances, according to the chamber.
Dorian Scicluna, who works in an electronics shop in Sliema, said they were busy all day and could not even keep up with the demand.
Even though this Black Friday's sales were considerably lower than last year's, businesses were generally optimistic and satisfied when comparing the sales with their expectations, said Fabian Demicoli, spokesman of the chamber.