People rush to shops before 'quiet three weeks' in Latvia

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Shortly after the government's announcement on additional restrictions on retail and services, which will take effect Saturday, Latvian Radio observed an influx of people at one of Rīga shopping malls on Thursday, December 17, evening.

On Thursday, government decided to impose additional restrictions, including strict limitations on retail until January 11. Latvian Radio went to look at the situation at the Spice mall on Thursday evening. Already pulling up to it, it was evident that the parking lot was overcrowded. The traffic was regulated to make it easier for customers to find a parking spot.

Vendors and shop assistants inside the mall confirmed there was an increased flow of people.

“There has been an increased flow of people since last week. Especially this week. There was a lot, a lot yesterday. Also in the morning,  full parking lot. People are rushing to buy gifts and buying things that can still be purchased,” a shop assistant said.

“[It was full] all day long. A little pause now. After work hours it will be full and tomorrow will be even more full with the new situation. I passed several malls today and they're all crowded,” a shop employee said.

“There are more [people]. And a lot of people are in shock and despair because they haven't been able to get everything. And salespeople are in shock, too, because this is a time when more can be earned, but now everything will be banned.”

It can be observed that sales and discounts, and special offers are all around. 

Inga Gulbe, head of the agro-resources and economy institute, explained that sales are normal at the end of the year and before other festive events. This is an understandable action on the part of the business.

However, in this situation, where many categories of goods can no longer be marketed from tomorrow and there are also stores which are planning to suspend their activities for a period of three weeks, there is an additional incentive to offer discounts. 

“Entrepreneurs have no faith in the government on what is promised and they act proactively. From an epidemiological point of view, this is certainly not good,” Gulbe commented.

It's likely Friday evening will be even more active. In anticipation of the influx of buyers, major Rīga malls have extended their working hours and will work until late evening. 

On Friday, Latvian Television's drone also caught on camera full parking lots by shopping malls.

The fact that many shops are launching extensive marketing campaigns on Friday, offering substantial discounts and extended working hours, has also been observed by the Consumer Rights Protection Centre (PTAC).

Consumer-rights watchdogs are calling on shops not to expand large marketing campaigns, which prompt consumers to shop on Friday, thereby putting customers at risk of crowding in or near the store and not observing distance. 

The PTAC also calls on consumers to be prudent and not to indulge in marketing campaigns and discounts offered and to avoid crowding in stores.

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