Shopkeepers fear losing the metropolitan visitor due to car restrictions
Trade and cars, a survey of shopkeepers complain about the obstacles to shopping by car.
People who are used to travelling to Barcelona by car to do their shopping are increasingly angry when they arrive at the counter of their favourite shop. One angry comment after another, accompanied by expletives, has made shopkeepers aware of the growing number of customers who could be lost if mobility and urban planning policies make it increasingly difficult for them to get to the door of the shop by car.
We are not talking about four cats. A study by Barcelona Oberta calculates that 28% of the turnover of shops in the Catalan capital corresponds to purchases by residents of the rest of the province of Barcelona, most of them from the metropolitan region. They account for some 3.9 billion euros, according to the entity that represents the commercial hubs. It is a large segment that has always been there and which has now become more aware of its value after the disappearance over the last two years of 18% of the turnover attributable to tourist purchases. This percentage was quantified by the same entity three years ago, when over-tourism was a cause for debate in the city. “There was a time when it seemed that they wanted to give up on tourism, now it seems that they want to give up on the residents of the rest of the province”, regrets the president of Barcelona Oberta, Gabriel Jené.
Barcelona Oberta predicts losses of between 2,800 and 3,500 million if the metropolitan customer decreases.
The third leg of the table is the residents, who make up half of the sales of local traders. “If one of the three segments falls, the whole model falls and ceases to be sustainable,” says Roger Gaspa, author of the report based on surveys of nearly 3,000 shoppers to get to know these metropolitan customers better.
The results conclude that the man who was complaining so bitterly at the counter is not an isolated case. Seventy-one percent of shoppers feel that it is becoming increasingly difficult to go shopping in Barcelona, a percentage that is directly related to the fact that half of non-residents travel by private car compared to 40% who travel by public transport. These percentages are very different from those for business trips and do not seem likely to change much among shoppers, since the reasons for not using the train or bus for those who go shopping by car are fixed perceptions such as the feeling that it takes a long time, that they have to make interchanges or even that they do not feel safe on public transport. One in four directly admits that they prefer to go by car. Faced with these responses, few alternatives can be offered.
The crux of the matter then is whether these people who are only willing to go shopping by car at least every two or three months will accept the changes in urban planning and mobility or whether they will give up. Faced with this dilemma, 58% of those surveyed say that they would stop shopping in Barcelona if they could not get there by car and 66% say that they travel less to the capital than they did a few years ago. The main aspects they attribute as causes are traffic jams and traffic problems, difficulties in accessing the city by private car, the time it takes to get there and parking.
“Mobility cannot be imposed, there is a significant deficit in public transport and the car cannot be banned without alternatives”, concluded Gabriel Jené when presenting the results of a report which predicts that between 2,800 and 3,500 million euros could be lost and more than 20,000 jobs could be lost if the metropolitan shopper disappears, which would also affect the restaurant industry, which for every three euros spent in shops generates one euro in the restaurant industry.
58% of them are prepared to stop going to the city if they cannot do so in their private vehicle.
Beyond the purely local aspects, there are other reasons mentioned by more than half of those surveyed which have nothing to do with any change in the Catalan capital’s roads. Internet shopping and the possibility of finding what the city has to offer in another place closer to home are issues mentioned by more than half of the metropolitan shoppers.
However, those responsible for the report warn of how worrying an “emotional disconnection” with the city can be. One out of every three people surveyed says that they do not enjoy going to Barcelona. The association’s study, which includes the commercial axes of the most touristic areas, was presented yesterday at the Chamber of Commerce in the presence of the Councillor for Commerce of the City Council, Montserrat Ballarín. “To speak of emotional disconnection with the city because of not being able to enter by car is exaggerated, perhaps the disconnection has to do with the many things that have happened in recent years and have hurt the self-esteem of the city”, defended Ballarín, who also highlighted the value of peripheral commerce.