Before owning her own boutique, 26-year-old Anisa Vando worked at a trading company in the commercial district outside Central Athens.
“That company depended so much on the export rather than the import that the crisis didn’t influence business too much,” said Vando. “So, I don’t have another period to compare it to.”
The young entrepreneur left her position at the global company to launch her own boutique, selling one-of-a-kind pieces including printed blouses, skirts and scarves. Named after her mother, Hilda Vando Fashion Creations opened its doors to the residents of Pangrati, a residential neighborhood at the edge of Central Athens, in December 2016. While it’s one of the newer businesses in the neighborhood, Vando admitted that her small business is not immune to the aftershocks of the Greek bailout crisis of 2009 that followed on the heels of the global financial crisis of 2008. Bankers estimate that nearly 20 percent of all Greek micro enterprises have closed since the crisis, while other businesses are barely holding on as owners struggle to meet loan payments and raise cash.
“Every time there is an evaluation about the financial crisis, no one would buy anything. I can see that every day is a struggle. Every day,” said Vando. “You don’t know if there will be clients the next day.”
This uncertainty creates a challenge for business owners like Vando, whose only source of income is from her shop. Changes in consumption patterns also affect how businesses operate. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an intergovernmental economic organization based in Paris that aims to stimulate economic progress and world trade, disposable income for the average Greek dropped by 3 percent. Customers can no longer afford to spend as much as they have in the past, making their purchases much smaller and significantly less frequent.
“During the long period of sales, customers will say, ‘I like this and I like that.’ Now customers say, ‘I need the blouse, I need the shirt and I need the trouser. I won’t buy anything else.’ They don’t see many things,” said Vando. “This is the difficulty I believe that, ‘I have that amount for the clothes that I will only buy that amount.’ Customers also ask for discounts all the time.”
Micro enterprises like Hilda Vando Fashion Creations that operate with less than 10 employees, constitute 96.2 percent of businesses in Greece and produce 34.3 percent of all revenues — which is equivalent to 17 billion euros ($21 billion), according to the 2017 performance review from the European Commission, a governing body that oversees the day-to-day operations of the EU.
In order to survive in this fragile economic state, owners must adjust and adapt their business strategies. For Vando, that means expanding her merchandise and perhaps moving closer to the center of Pangrati.
“If I can stay open, I hope I can bring in more things. I can accessorize maybe,” said Vando. “Or I can change the road to the main road so I would still stay in Pangrati but in a different section of the area.”
Click through the gallery below to see photographs of Hilda Vando Fashion Creations.