Malta Chamber of SMEs CEO Abigail Mamo has noted that despite Malta’s retail trade recovery being “good news”, it is “still not excelling or exceeding” the recovery of most of the European Union (EU).

This comes after Eurostat on Wednesday published retail trade statistics for July 2023 when compared to June 2023, with Malta being one of just nine EU countries to have an improved performance, registering a 0.5 per cent increase from the previous month. The EU average went down by 0.3 per cent, and the Euro area average also dropped by 0.2 per cent. When compared to July 2022, the performance for this July amounted to 3.5 per cent more, making it one of only seven EU countries to have higher retail trade than in the same month in 2022.

Speaking to about what these results mean for Malta’s retail sector, Ms Mamo said that the performance must be taken into context with what happened in previous years.

“Last year we had a very different result, as we saw a major part of EU countries recovering at a very fast rate following COVID-19, as they bounced back very quickly with very positive retail figures,” she said.

She remarked that Malta’s retail trade recovery was “still lagging behind” and was “very slow”.

“In this context, when you see the numbers related to retail this year, the rest of Europe’s gain has already been done, so the increase will be very slow. Since Malta was behind in terms of its recovery, the improvement was more evident,” Ms Mamo explained.

She stated that this may come as “good news” as the sector continued to recover, yet Malta is still “not excelling or exceeding” the EU recovery rate.

Ms Mamo remarked that aside from statistics, this delayed recovery is also being felt on the ground, stating that members of the Malta Chamber of SMEs have expressed concerns about how retail following the pandemic “has not returned to what it was in the past”. While she noted that there are some areas of retail that have gained increased market share and are thus advancing at a faster rate, overall, recovery has been slow and “has not yet returned to pre-pandemic times”.

This year has also marked a significant improvement in Malta when it comes to inbound tourism, with figures from Malta International Airport showing that the airport continued to experience an upturn in performance in August when compared to 2019.

Ms Mamo stated that having tourist numbers back to normal is a positive, yet the quality of tourism is still under question, adding that Malta needs to attract tourists of “higher quality”.

The impact of inflation on both the purchasing power of tourists and the domestic market “are being felt”, she continued.

“We have many members who are telling us that people are buying, but every time they shop, we are seeing them be more careful and the amount they are buying is decreasing,” she explained.

She concluded by saying that there are “a number of factors” beyond the recovery of COVID-19 that “are still affecting” Malta.

Ms Mamo has occupied the position of CEO of the Malta Chamber of SMEs since 2014, having held various positions within the entity since 2007. She has a wide range of experience and expertise in economics of competitiveness and sustainability of enterprises, and is also Board Member of JobsPlus, Maternity Trust Fund Foundation, Employment Relations Board, Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST), Retail Price Index Board, Occupational Health and Safety, as well as Business First.

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Malta Chamber of SMEs CEO Abigail Mamo

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