Power-cut was another blow to Christmas shopping, Valletta shop owners say

Shop owners in Valletta complained that Monday’s power-cut, lasting over three hours was another blow to last-minute Christmas shopping

Shops lost the morning customer traffic as a result of the nationwide power cut
Shops lost the morning customer traffic as a result of the nationwide power cut

It's two days before Christmas and for many this represents the last-minute rush to buy presents, clothes or those missing items for the family Christmas meal.

But a power-cut that struck at around 7.15am and lasted for more than three hours disrupted those plans on Monday morning, leaving many shop owners fuming and customers smarting.

Hairdressers and beauticians with back-to-back appointments had their schedules disrupted, forcing many of them to consider working later into the evening to try and recoup the backlog. Some shops did not even bother to open, while others tried to wait out the electricity outage.

MaltaToday headed to Valletta and spoke with shop owners in the capital. The power-cut was another blow to commercial activity in the capital that was only starting to recover from the impact of mass protests held there recently.

Two cafeteria owners on Republic Street told MaltaToday that they had to open later than usual. 

“It’s useless having a shop that relies exclusively on power to be open. People stop by for coffee and a snack early in the morning. By noon, when the power was back on, it was time for lunch,” a café owner said, adding that the early shoppers who usually stopped for a bite or a sip of coffee were lost.

The same individual made reference to the recent protests in Valletta that slowed down business leading up to Christmas. A power-cut so close to Christmas, one of two to take place in a matter of weeks, rubbed salt in the wound.

A retailer told MaltaToday that the week leading up to Christmas is arguably the most important week for business. 

“Most people leave till the last minute to buy Christmas gifts. If it weren’t for the holidays, most shops wouldn’t have the lifetime that they have. A shop on Republic Street can make thousands upon thousands of sales in the last two days before Christmas,” she said. 

She added that individuals who might have been planning to come to Valletta in the morning may have chosen to stay at home. 

When asked whether the power cut actually made a difference to sales, the shop owner nodded her head. “Absolutely. The day isn’t over yet but there were very few morning shoppers.”

READ ALSO: Political turmoil leaving its toll on commerce, business leaders say

She compared today’s clientele movement to Sunday’s or Saturday’s and said that, today, there were less than half the people visiting the shop on previous days. 

Another long-standing retailer on Merchant’s Street said that 2019 was the worst year for business for as long as he could remember. 

“The closing months of the year are usually more successful. The political uncertainty and the protests couldn’t come at a worse point in time. I would say that the power cut doesn’t count for much but for some it could be the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said. 

He commented on how shoppers who were present in the shop while the power came back on were sympathetic and passed comments about sales or lack thereof. 

"Even social media this morning—people knew the power cut was nationwide because everyone was talking about it on Facebook. If it were a time before Facebook, some shoppers might not have known and braved the trip to Valletta. Today, however, they all have access to the internet, they all knew shops didn't have power. We lost a lot of shoppers in two hours."

The shop owner was hopeful, however, insisting that there were still over six hours of possible business to cover and a full day tomorrow. He didn't exclude the possibility of remaining open for business after 7pm on Monday.