He has been running a toy store in the La Elipa neighborhood of Madrid for 43 Christmas campaigns. But this is the first that, in addition to the children’s favorite gifts, helps to sell products and services completely unrelated to their business: mixers, clothes, facials, portions of croquettes, canes and even clairvoyance consultations.
Joaquín García is a member of La Arroba, an association of merchants that in the days of Covid and Bitcoin has created its own virtual currency: the elipi.
For each purchase over 5 euros, the customer of the toy store accumulates points or ellipses that can then be exchanged for gifts in other affiliated establishments. The prizes are loaded and discounted through a QR code hosted on a mobile application where you can also check the menus of the bars.
“We recommend each other. The important thing is that consumption stays in the neighborhood, ”says García, who works in the toy store located in front of the dragon, the children’s attraction symbol of the neighborhood, since he was 16 years old.
La Arroba, a small business association, has launched a mobile application to encourage consumption in its neighborhood
Initiatives like this one, which appeal to business cooperation and consumer solidarity, are one of the few possibilities that neighborhood stores have to compete with the large retail platforms. ecommerce and to take advantage of the Christmas season to save a year marked by the health crisis.
“Most of these businesses don’t have the money, time, or knowledge to go digital. The most advisable thing in your case is to organize collaborative campaigns that raise awareness about the importance of consuming locally ”, maintains Sara Calvo, an expert in entrepreneurship and social innovation at the International University of La Rioja (Unir).
Antidio Vinuesa, president of La Arroba, says that the idea of the elipi began to haunt their heads at the end of last year. In March, when the pandemic forced the government to shut down trade, they decided it was time to put it into operation.
The app It was developed with the help of a technology firm and an investment of 4,000 euros that was paid for with the monthly contributions of its 41 associates.
“In June, when we were able to go out, we started testing it and explaining how it works to merchants, many of whom are older people who are not familiar with the technology; it was a work of many days because the capacity limits forced us to leave every time a client entered ”, comments Miguel Ángel Calderón, vice president of the association.
Part of the investment went to the printing of a user guide and posters inviting customers to join the cause. “Now more than ever I need you,” reads one of the brochures.
Since its launch in September, the app counts more than a hundred downloads. “More people need to know her. Let’s see if we can give it a little push ”, says behind the screen Nuria Carvajal, owner together with his sister Maria from the La Gloria oven. “Before I could entertain myself talking to customers, but now that we can only receive a maximum of three, we have to do everything quickly and quickly,” he says.
Founded in 1963, the patisserie, although tiny, is an institution in La Elipa. On the eve of Kings, customers form long lines for their roscón. Despite the fame that precedes them, Carvajal is concerned that the safety distance and capacity limits – “Before there were four of us dispatching at the counter and now there are only two of us” – make the wait even longer and discourage too many people from buying.
This Christmas, the authorities of municipalities such as Madrid have encouraged citizens to buy their gifts in the nearest shops to avoid crowds in the center of large cities and, when possible, to do so through the internet, in order to avoid exits to the street and minimize the risk of contagion. But many neighborhood stores don’t have digital channels.
The pandemic has triggered two seemingly conflicting trends. According to Nextdoor, a social network that connects neighbors with establishments, 57% of 2,000 users surveyed in November plan to buy close to home this Christmas season to support local SMEs and avoid crowded areas.
However, another study, this one from Fashionable Asia, maintains that 35.5% of Spaniards have increased their orders on the internet during the pandemic and have no intention of returning to traditional businesses when the outbreak is controlled. Although Fashionable Asia is a cosmetics platform, its survey investigates consumption in general.
The experience of the fishmonger Antonio Municio shows that online and local commerce can coexist in harmony
Antonio Municio, a fishmonger at the Mercado de Maravillas, in the center of Madrid, shows that both trends are not irreconcilable. Three years ago he set up a website through which he attends orders throughout Spain. “Face-to-face sales have dropped 50% since March, but we have balanced them with online sales,” he says.
Even so, he faces these holidays with some uncertainty. “It will depend on how many people can meet for dinner and until what time, that influences a lot,” he says.
Some large companies have also shown solidarity with small businesses by putting at their disposal tools that can help them make the leap to the digital world. This is the case of Telefónica, which yesterday signed an agreement with Zerca!, a platform created especially for local commerce by the innovation center in retail from Zaragoza T-ZIR.
The system provides establishments with a network of free digital directories and a marketplace developed with the collaboration of Correos that integrates training, technology, logistics and operations.
Noelia Lázaro, marketing director of the Packlink shipping platform, acknowledges that Covid has promoted the approach to ecommerce of new consumers, for example, 60-year-old retirees who do not go out and have time to compare. “But these people are not going to stop buying at the grocer on the corner,” he clarifies.
More than the rise of digital channels, what really affects lifelong stores is the economic crisis, he says. “If people only have 50 euros to spend, online commerce is going to take an important part and less is going to be left for neighborhood businesses,” he explains.
Calvo, from Unir, insists that the only realistic way to face such a situation is by organizing campaigns that excite people and launch solidarity chains.
The leaders of La Arroba know that in an area like La Elipa, which has almost three months confined, reaching the hearts of the neighbors is crucial. For this reason, they have managed the Christmas lighting of the main avenue, Marqués de Corbera, and supported the installation of a wish tree in the cultural center of the neighborhood. “A lighted street encourages people to go out and, if people go out, they consume”, Vinuesa emphasizes.
The 243 toy manufacturers in Spain, 97% of which are SMEs, will hold their breath until Twelfth Night. And it is not for less: until September, sales fall by 10%, a setback that could be partially recovered if the Christmas campaign goes well, since in the last six weeks of the calendar they register half of their annual turnover.
“The end of this year is very uncertain. If the epidemiological situation continues, we may scratch something. But if it worsened and the restrictions were tightened, it would be a disaster ”, warns José Antonio Pastor, president of the Spanish Association of Toy Manufacturers (AEFJ).
This has asked that the toy be considered an essential good, under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which recognizes play as such. Thus, its sale would not be limited even in the worst scenario, as has happened in the United States, the United Kingdom or Germany. In fact, thanks to this, exports have only decreased by 1% in the period.
Black Friday, Christmas and the Three Kings are together the highest consumption peak for perfumery and cosmetics, since during those dates between 22% and 25% of the annual sales of some emblematic categories such as perfume are concentrated. In the 2019 holidays, the star gift contributed 400 million of the more than 1,300 million that the sector moved in these weeks. Skincare generated another 350 million and color cosmetics 150 million.
“This year we hope that the desire to recover our lifestyle and to meet again, always with responsibility, will once again stimulate the market”, says Val Díez, general manager of the Stanpa employer association.
The industry in Spain is made up of more than 500 companies, of which 84% are SMEs. During the state of alarm, fifty of these companies turned to the disinterested manufacture of hydroalcoholic gels, “a product almost non-existent then, which is now part of our lives.”
The manufacturer of Iberian hams and sausages Enrique García has lowered its prices by 50% to exhaust in the delicatessens the stock that it has not been able to sell to bars and restaurants due to the closures that the restaurant has suffered. But, according to the Interprofessional Association of the Iberian Pig (Asici), a generalized liquidation of balances should not be expected.
“Some companies have adjusted their prices a little, but not much, because Iberian ham is a food that costs a lot to produce and would give a bad image,” says Antonio Prieto, president of Asici. “From the moment the pig is slaughtered until it is put on the market, it can take two, three and even four years, the whole process that takes place in between has a huge cost,” he explains.
What he does agree on is that the outcome of this Christmas campaign will depend on household consumption, which will be conditioned by the limit on meetings and the curfew imposed by each community. “That ten people can get together to celebrate the holidays is better than six, because that way the conversation is livelier and more is eaten,” he says. At the expense of the families, 872 producers of Iberian ham and 17,000 cattle farms are entrusted.
More than a hundred companies and small workshops make the quintessential Christmas sweet in Spain, although 90% of the turnover is concentrated in some 25 companies. The end of the year period represents for the manufacturers of nougat and marzipan between 80% and 85% of the turnover of the entire year, “that is, the sector is played in three weeks 250 million euros”, says Rubén Moreno , General Secretary of Produlce, an association that also represents the categories of candies, chewing gums, chocolates and cakes.
Although the demand for nougat and marzipan tends to remain very stable from one Christmas to the next, Moreno acknowledges that this year the sector “is going to experience totally unprecedented parties”, which is why most companies are preparing to repeat the 24,000 tons that They were sold at the 2019 festivities, when 289 million euros were billed throughout the year, of which national consumption took 237 million.