Retail businesses want the government to issue vouchers that can be spent in their shops before it distributes those that apply to hotels and restaurants.

“They cannot wait any longer. Retail outlets need strong consumption to make up the losses they have suffered over the last six weeks,” the CEO of the Malta Chamber of SMEs, Abigail Mamo, said.

Non-essential shops and services, such as hairdressers, beauty shops, clothes shops and florists, are being allowed to reopen on Monday as pandemic restrictions are cautiously eased on the island.

“Businesses have been gearing up and preparing for weeks to reopen and they need the vouchers to help boost sales,” Mamo told Times of Malta.

The government issued a first set of €100 vouchers to the public last year, a measure which helped boost the economy after COVID-19 badly hit consumption.

Another round was due to be issued in January but had to be postponed after a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases led to a new shutdown.

Government is believed to be waiting for the green light from health authorities

Since then, there has been no word on when the second batch will be issued. The government is believed to be waiting for the green light from the health authorities.

Whereas, last time, the vouchers allowed €80 to be spent on accommodation, restaurants and bars and €20 in retail outlets, this time the balance will be €60-€40.

Last week, the Association of Catering Establishments was informed that the second set of vouchers would only be issued weeks after the reopening of restaurants and cafes and no date has yet been set for that.

The Chamber's case for retail vouchers

Mamo said on Friday that there were a number of reasons why the retail vouchers should be issued before those applicable to restaurants and accommodation.

“While items in retail shops have no expiry date, certain outlets, such as clothes shops, will have missed two months to sell their spring collection items. They risk being left with unsold stock. This will increase their losses.”

She also argued it would be ideal to spread out the distribution of vouchers to create a longer economic impact: people would first use their retail vouchers and, later, the restaurant ones, instead of all at once.

But she has no indication yet of when the vouchers will be handed out to the public.

“We are aware there might be a change in the system,” she said.

“The vouchers may not be given out physically but there may be an online app, which would make it easier.”

Business owners had not anticipated this situation, Mamo added. Everyone thought it would be business as usual and did not expect another shutdown.

“Despite this, I do believe business will start moving, based on our good vaccine figures and the fact that people are tired sitting indoors. But we need the vouchers to make an impact,” she said.

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