Just over a week after Barcelona’s terrorist attacks, fashion sales in the city’s top shopping destinations have plunged 50 percent, with one store manager branding the fallout as the “worst in history.”
The August 17 attacks killed 13 people and injured 150 as a speeding van zig-zagged down the historic Las Ramblas promenade, one of Europe’s busiest tourists spots. The 1.2-kilometer strip in central Barcelona is home to H&M, Mango and Zara flagships as well as dozens of fashion boutiques and restaurants. Boasting a large mosaic by Spanish painter Miró and colorful street performers, the walkway is a popular strolling and dining destination.
“Our sales are the worst in history,” said Lidia Melendez, manager of a Springfield store. “Not one person is coming in.”
Melendez, who saw the van hit pedestrians as the attacks unfolded around 5 p.m., immediately closed the store, providing shelter for horrified shoppers. As police subsequently closed the area and people mounted vigils, she only opened for a half day on Saturday when sales totaled 4,000 euros, less than half the 8,000 to 9,000 euros the two-story shop normally makes. Owned by Spanish retail group Cortefiel, the Las Ramblas shop is one of Springfield’s best-selling stores in Spain alongside another flagship on Madrid’s Gran Vía high street.
The nearby Mango, Desigual and Nike shops also shuttered as tourists rushed out and the area become desolate, Melendez said. The incident, however, did not damage any stores.
Retail sales in the area remain weak after the ISIS attacks horrified Europe, Melendez claimed. While some people have streamed back, they are mainly dining or sitting at cafes, not shopping, she added.
“We are expecting this to last for at least another month,” Melendez said. “We can’t do anything to bring people back. You can have the prettiest store and the biggest sales but people are nervous and won’t come in. If they hear the slightest noise, they panic.”
While acknowledging traffic is down, a visual merchandiser at women’s boutique Friday’s Project said sales are back to normal.
“The first three days were pretty bad but everything is fine now. Las Ramblas is full of people,” she said.
However, she noted sales at Barcelona’s main shopping mall Splau and Portal de l’Angel, where the company also operates shops, are down 50 percent in the past week.
“The real impact has been in the shopping malls where locals are scared to go because of the possibility of another terrorist attack,” she said. She added Catalans [as the people of the Barcelona province of Catalunya are called] don’t do much shopping in Las Ramblas, which is predominantly a tourist spot.
“It’s going to take a while for things to get back to normal,” added the merchandiser, who requested anonymity. “People are scared.”
Guillermo Corominas, communications director at Mango, said the Barcelona-based chain closed 30 stores around the city center following the attacks but gradually reopened them in the 48 hours following.
“There is going to be a negative impact [on sales] but we don’t know how much yet,” Corominas said, adding that trade was rising strongly before the incident as Spain’s economy extends a three-year rebound. “We hope to make up any losses during the rest of the year.”
Mango continues to expand, however, and plans to open a new, 21,500-square-feet flagship in Madrid’s Preciados shopping district in November to take its count to 380.
In 2017, the retailer expects sales at home to exceed last year’s 7 percent jump to 470 million euros.
“The economy is much better and unemployment is lower. We are one of the best-performing economies in Europe right now,” Corominas concluded.