With the covid-19 pandemic forcing states and municipalities to adopt measures that limit the movement of people and the functioning of establishments, traders are looking for ways to take advantage of Holy Week to increase sales and earn revenue.
In Catholic tradition, the week on which Good Friday and Easter are celebrated exalts the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In normal times, the date drives not only commercial sales – mainly fish and chocolates -, but also domestic tourism, since Friday is a public holiday.
However, for the second consecutive year, the celebration takes place amid restrictions that affect not only religious ceremonies, but also commercial activities. For the National Confederation of Trade in Goods, Services and Tourism (CNC), retail sales in general should be 2.2% lower than in 2020, moving around R $ 1.62 billion – which, if confirmed, would be the worst result since 2008.
In a note, the president of CNC, José Roberto Tadros, affirmed that the retraction in sales this year is due not only to the restrictions on the functioning of the trade, but also to the fact that part of the population saw their income fall at a time when the devaluation of the real against the dollar made the import of some typical products more expensive. According to the confederation, the quantity of imported chocolates (2.9 thousand tons) is the lowest since 2013. That of cod (2.26 thousand tons), the lowest since 2009.
According to the president of the Brazilian Association of the Chocolate, Peanut and Candy Industry (Abicab), Ubiracy Fonsêca, chocolate manufacturers had to take into account the loss of purchasing power on the part of consumers to think about their sales strategies, but, even so , the sector is optimistic.
“The loss of purchasing power is real. There are many people without a job, without being able to work. With this in mind, chocolate manufacturers sought to offer products accessible to the population. Those who cannot buy an Easter egg can purchase a chocolate bar. The sector’s strategy is to offer what the market wants ”, said Fonsêca to Brazil Agency.
Four days before Easter Sunday, Fonsêca pointed out that the chocolate industry planned to create, directly and indirectly, 11,665 temporary jobs and exceed the 8.5 tons sold in 2020. Goals that, according to him, will be achieved.
“Despite the difficulties, we are optimistic. Also, about 80% of sales of Easter eggs happen in supermarkets, which are operating normally in almost the entire country. In addition, many merchants have prepared to serve consumers over the internet ”, commented the president of Abicab, guaranteeing that sales online, which had been growing year by year, took a leap after the start of the pandemic.
Marketing manager, Francisco Alves de Faria Neto, confirms the importance of digital commerce. With two physical stores in the Federal District and a clientele established over 20 years, Casa do Chocolate expanded its sales to other units of the Federation thanks to technology.
“We had an increase in sales online about 70% compared to Easter last year, when we launched the site, in the midst of the pandemic, which made us accelerate the process ”, commented Neto, adding that electronic commerce already represents half of all company sales.
According to the manager, also sales in physical stores, authorized to operate for selling food, “are going well”, although more expensive chocolates, especially imported ones, have sold less than expected. “The turnover of many of the imported items that we sell has decreased a lot. So much so that we had to put products on offer so as not to lose merchandise. But, in general, we have sold very well in the last few weeks. ”
In Santos (SP), where the operation of a good part of commerce and services is suspended until Sunday (4), traders from the traditional Fish Market had to organize themselves to take the still fresh products to the customers’ homes, who passed by doing their shopping over the phone. Still, according to Alex Vieira, owner of one of the 20 boxes in operation at the site, many saw sales drop dramatically.
With a closed establishment, merchants are making deliveries. – Susan Horas / Archive
“In our case, sales dropped by around 60% to 70%,” said Vieira, whose family has been in the business for about 40 years. “This is a totally new situation for everyone, including customers. Many, who always eat fish and have been our customers for some time, called us and anticipated their orders, but there are also those who like to come to the market, to see the fish, to choose. Of these, part does not buy without looking at the product, does not have a relationship of trust already established ”, added the merchant from Santos.
The president of the Brazilian Association of Pisciculture (Peixe BR), Francisco Medeiros, pointed out that the fish trade involves different realities. According to him, for producers of cultivated fish (fish farmers), whose main customers are supermarkets (authorized to operate even where the lockdown adopted), good expectations have already come true.
“Supermarkets are not being severely restricted. On the contrary. They are selling very well. And, unlike the maritime fishing industry, affected by the pandemic, fish farming has also not stopped. We maintained regularity, delivering to buyers the quantities previously established in contracts and without increasing prices ”, commented Medeiros, estimating that the segment sold around 100 thousand tons over the last month.
“Once again, we did not record an explosion in sales like those of 2018 and 2019, when, in some places, they grew by 300%. This did not happen, but this year, we did not lose sales either. Unlike 2020, when we did, we were negatively affected, ”said Medeiros.
Another industry that usually waits for the Easter holiday, the hotel sector is the most affected of the three. According to the national president of the Brazilian Association of the Hotel Industry (ABIH Nacional), Manoel Linhares, the occupancy rate of hotels across the country should not reach 10%, aggravating the crisis resulting from the pandemic.
Manoel Linhares, president of ABIH Nacional. – National ABIH Disclosure
“The hotel industry is prepared to receive guests, adopting all the protocols recommended by the health authorities, but with parks, restaurants and other attractions closed in almost the whole country. The situation is very difficult. In São Paulo alone, 27 hotels have already closed their doors, dismissed employees and those responsible are deciding what to do with the properties, ”said Linhares.
For him, the sector urgently needs the enactment of an initiative similar to Provisional Measure 936, of April 2020, later transformed into Law No. 14,020, which allowed temporary workload and wage reduction agreements or the suspension of labor contracts until 31 December last year.
“If something like this is not done, many other hotels will have to shut down. Currently, the hotel industry does not have the resources to even pay the wages and charges of the approximately 1.1 million professionals it employs across the country, ”said the president of ABIH Nacional.
He called on the government to promote campaigns to encourage Brazilians to travel around the country after the pandemic is under control, and that state and municipal governments help the sector by reducing taxes and fees, even if temporarily, and renegotiating tariffs for essential services. “In this difficult time, a discount on IPTU [Imposto Predial e Territorial Urbano, cobrado pelas prefeituras] or no ICMS [Imposto sobre Circulação de Mercadorias e Serviços, estadual] charged on the electricity bill can help maintain business and preserve jobs ”, he concluded.
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