The results of a study released by Nielsen this week suggest the last 15 years have been less than kind to small grocery and variety stores in the Czech Republic. While in 2000 there were more than 10,600, the number has since dropped by roughly a third. The reason? Hyper- and supermarket chains which have largely changed how Czechs do their shopping.
It used to be in smaller towns and villages most Czech families preferred at smaller stores on the main road or main square but in places like Výškov near Brno things have changed. Otýlie Paludová is a local resident:
“On the square there was a butcher’s shop, there was an electronic goods store, there was a greengrocers. We still have the last, but it is now it is a Vietnamese-run shop.”
In all, four stores on the square closed and elsewhere the situation isn’t much better, according to Czech TV, who visited Lucie Kultová, a shop owner who ran out of business in Bdín in the Rakovník area. Her shelves have been empty and doors closed now for months.
“It was a classic variety store: that is where where we had the bread and rolls, the deserts and so on.”
Despite support from the local town hall – which waived her rent – her customer base was negligible by the end, with locals of the village opting increasingly to travel 15 kilometres to the nearest hypermarket instead.
According to the Nielsen survey, it is sites like those, hypermarkets or supermarket chains, that are increasingly where Czechs prefer to buy food and other goods: a one-stop visit by car where families can do all their shopping in one go. As stores of 50 square metres or less (often of the Mom & Pop variety) have suffered, hypermarkets have grown, and with sales and a broader selection they have made it significantly tougher for small shop owners to stay in business. According to the study, in 2000 there were 900 supermarkets in the country between 400 and 2,499 square metres in size: today, their number stands at just over 1,350.
Hypermarkets, even larger (beginning at 2,500 square metres) have more than tripled over the same period: fifteen years ago there were just 68 compared to 309 today. While it appears that closures have fallen off somewhat, the impact of the chain stores is real in places like Čáslav, which saw its first local hypermarket open only a year ago. One family which runs a small grocery store in the area told Czech TV they had seen a drop in sales of 50 percent. Shop co-owner Blanka Štůsková:
“My sister and I run this shop after our parents. It was in operation for 20 years before now and everything was fine.”
Now, it is a question is how they will weather the situation in the future and they perhaps have reason to be pessimistic; as the survey suggests only 12 percent of Czechs currently prefer small venues as their shops of choice.