Monday, May 29, 2023
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< view full issue: Catalan crisis
Miquel Donnay i Richarte

​Evaluating the scene of an emergency and the perspectives for Catalonia

President of the Consell de Gremis de Comerç, Serveis i Turisme

These last two months have no precedent on which to reflect in many ways, whether political, social or economic. Even so, we can assess the scenario and minimally visualize a perspective, based not on free interpretations, but rather on data and experiences.

Crisis catalana compras

In the case of the Consell de Gremis de Comerç, Serveis i Turisme (the Retail, Services, and Tourist Guild), we have carried out a study and had different dialogues with our Guilds and members to in search of this visualization in these sectors, realising what is also evident: all the events of the latest weeks have had an effect on each person; each of these people being a consumer, a traveller, a user, and so on and this has generated a situation that in each case corresponds to their own reality and perception. However, these perceptions do affect the market in a general way, since many of these people agree in their responses, this is a general interpretation (not the total of each individual).

Before continuing, we should emphasize one aspect: the scenario that we are evaluating, although it may seem to us that we have been immersed in a long time, has been generated and suffered in the last 8 weeks only. We should also note that the peak of greatest economic and social impact occurred the first three weeks. This statement is significant because we are evaluating a period that in normal circumstances would have been brief and merely transitory until the end of the quarter, leading up to preparation for, and the evaluation of the Christmas campaign.

Each sector has endured this stage in a different way, and the effects have oscillated between 0% and 20%. I cannot evaluate individual Guilds in particular nor its segment of members, but rather the aggregate of the sectors. I will try to order it in the three areas:


For example, the service sector, which has endured this stage has with relatively little impact, has perceived the situation at the social level (as a topic of conversation or concern) but has not reduced its overall volume of activity. In the case of the tourism sector, it has had more noticeable effects; but far from what some pointed out in different conversations that were held in October where it was said that "this will affect our sector by more than 30%". Finally, depending on each segment, the effect has varied between 5 and 20%.

We have to say that it was not helpful for foreign affairs offices to indicate that it was better to postpone trips Barcelona, since this also caused some airlines to offer refunds or have customers make changes to their trips. 

However, this month of November has already improved by returning to normal functioning of the sector. To assess each segment, hotel guilds and travel agencies go into much more detail.

Also the commerce sector has reflected different facets these weeks. Commerce segments such as culture and food have reflected the social concern, but it has not had a very negative economic impact. Keep in mind that the household economies have not been substantially affected; so daily or cultural purchases have continued. The fashion sector was also affected by adverse weather combined with this October's events.

In commerce, the affects depends on the sector and the type of product or commodity; but what happened in general to consumers in this period has not been renouncing buying, rather postponing the decision to purchase; waiting to see what the situation was has led to a de-prioritization of the buying sentiment, of the illusion to buy something. 

Fortunately, this November has carried on as normal, and at this rate we should recover to an active and positive Christmas campaign.

We can see an example of this de-prioritization situation in "micro" detail in the automotive sector: in the weeks of October immediately showed a 20% sales decrease, the consumer "believed" that although they needed a new car, they did not have the predisposition or adequate motivation in those days to make the purchase; the consumer de-prioritized and postponed the decision and the purchase action; but in the last week of October, the lost ground was already recovered.

What happened has also served to demonstrate the strength of the Catalonian business model, the ability to get over events and redirect, normalize and optimize the situation. When you are an affected party, it is not easy, but it has in fact been such: troughs that recover because of the commercial model solidity. Therefore we have to promote it and help it to work properly.

In relative terms, being generally affected by 3 to 5% in situations of exception like the current one shows that we have a strong and resistant commercial sector, obviously showing some effects, but quite in tune with society. So I have to once again insist that we have a model that not only we can say works, but we can demonstrate it works. Let's empower it then, because it is in the interest of us all that commerce, as well as tourism and services, function normally and optimally.

We have got the month of December ahead of us in which the data and the evolution already commented indicate that it should not be a bad Christmas season, on the contrary, we are looking forward to it with optimism. Although we have an election day right in the middle of it that obviously is not an incentive to shopping, but rather reminds us of political aspects; however in spite of this factor and current events, the perspective is of economic business as usual.



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