Shopping in markets has not been the same for a long time. The large presence of supermarkets and the different routines of families mean that fewer and fewer consumers choose these places to fill their shopping baskets. Traders have been predicting the imminent end of supply markets for years and still managed to survive the pandemic’s brunt. “Just when we were about to breathe again, the war came and the prices skyrocketed,” explains Paco Soto, who works as a fishmonger at the La Cebada market. An unprecedented rise in inflation and a loss of purchasing power have forced consumers to buy less and opt for cheaper products, as merchants from various supply markets in Madrid can attest.
Depending on the type of products and the purchasing power of consumers, fishmongers, butchers and greengrocers in the capital report losses from 20% to 50%. The product that is sold the least is fish, even though it has not increased in price over the past year. According to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the price of fresh fish rose by 10%, compared to almost half that of poultry (18.1%) or vegetables (17.9%), which, however, consumers are increasingly buying. “The problem is that people don’t have time to cook. Thus, instead of buying seasonal fish, they choose the easiest to prepare, even if it costs more. But they end up buying a lot less,” explains Soto. The trader claims that his sales have dropped by 50% since the start of the war, and customers who used to come two or three times a week now come less often.
For Marcelo Gallego, a fishmonger from Puente de Vallecas, things are even worse. Although its market is more crowded, it has almost no customers throughout the morning. “The situation is serious. One only has to look at the fish that has survived to realize this,” he assures us. Their sales are down 60% since the end of summer. Among the products he offers, there are almost no shellfish, but not because he runs out quickly, but because he buys smaller quantities so as not to remain unsold.
The fish stalls are the least crowded in most markets. Juana Pérez, a 55-year-old resident of Puente de Vallecas, fills her basket with butcher and vegetables, but refuses to buy fish: “I’m not coming down today. I left 50 euros in my pocket and already reached the ceiling.” After the prices went up, he went from eating fish once a week to several times a month.
“Clients come with payment in mind. They buy enough to see them through the end of the week. They won’t ask you for two kilos of tangerines anymore. They want 12 pieces because they know they will have to eat a couple a day. According to his calculation, after returning from vacation, sales have decreased by 25%, despite the fact that the price of seasonal fruits has not increased much compared to the previous year.
Santiago Ortiz, who has a stall at Anton Martin’s market, gave up tropical fruit. “Who wants to buy papaya for five euros per kilogram, enough to eat for a day, when you can get a kilogram of pears for less than half the price and you are happy for the whole week,” he says, starting to think. Fill in the boxes.
Shopkeepers generally agree that what has changed is primarily the quantity and quality of food in the shopping cart. There are very few products that have almost completely disappeared: considered “luxuries” such as Iberian hams and shellfish, or sweets that families reserve for the weekend. “What’s sold on Monday is not the same as what’s on Friday,” says Naomi Ventura, who opened a bakery and pastry shop in the Vallecano market about five months ago. “But the difference is noticeable, first of all, between the first and second weeks of the month. When the salary is just coming, people buy more freely.”
“No one buys Iberian ham anymore, I have it for decoration. And they have not become more expensive. But at the moment they are a luxury that people can’t afford,” admits José Ramón, at the Puente de Vallecas municipal market. Their customers, who continue to come regularly, have changed the type of product they buy more often: they choose the cheapest cheeses and sausages, such as York ham and mortadella, and are much more careful about quantity. Habits have also changed in distribution: “We moved from ordering by box to ordering by unit.”
Not all markets experience the effects of the economic crisis in the same way. Consumers at the La Paz market in the central district of Salamanca were barely affected by the severe blow of inflation. “The day we see less people buying in this market means there are no solutions to the problems,” says butcher Miguel Ángel Fresneda. It claims that sales have not declined “in the slightest” and continues to sell even “luxury” products such as Iberian products.
“It’s in a privileged area,” explains Ruben Martin, who has a fishmonger’s stall near the market’s main entrance. With an average income of €130,000 per year, Goia is the second wealthiest district in Spain. Despite this, Martin has seen a slight drop in fish and shellfish sales of around 20%, although he says he is not concerned about the figures. “Consumers are a bit more cautious. If earlier a family of four bought leftovers for food, now they go to the market. But they don’t give up anything either,” he says.
All hopes, both in markets with less affluent customers and in markets that have maintained the level of purchases, rest on Christmas. “Nougat and Mantecado will save me. People are always more willing to spend on parties, and sweets should not be left out of the Christmas table,” Ventura assures.
“This year will be very interesting. The same will happen during the summer holidays, when even though everything is very expensive, people travel a lot as if it were the end of the world,” says Julian Lopez, a butcher from La Paz. The holidays will be the first without restrictions since the pandemic began, and retailers are confident consumers will want to eat “well and plenty”.
“Everyone is going to spend a lot in December, even those who are saving now. “The results will show in January when they realize they spent too much and buy less again,” says Gallego.
Source: El Diario