North Macedonia’s Businesses Fear Pandemic’s Economic Shockwaves

Small businesses first to suffer

"Today you are only my third customer. I only have made about 300 Denars [five euros]," a taxi driver wearing a face mask and protective gloves, as prescribed by the authorities, told BIRN.

"People are afraid to come and get a haircut. These days the telephone they usually call to set up an appointment is almost silent," a hairstylist from Skopje told BIRN. He said he was even considering temporarily closing his salon while the pandemic lasts.

The manager of one hotel in Skopje said that almost all reservations for this month have been cancelled, while there are no new ones at all.

Tourist agencies have meanwhile cancelled all their scheduled excursions, and are already counting their losses from reservations they have made at hotels abroad which they have already paid for, but will now not be bought by holidaymakers.

Strict measures aimed at preventing the spread of the virus have also completely closed shopping malls, coffees, restaurants, casinos and betting shops.

Only pharmacies and food stores remain open, although they have registered increased demand. Almost all the supermarkets are full of customers who sometimes panic-buy until the shelves are empty, generating much more income for store-owners than usual.

Queues of people are also noticeable at pharmacies. "We are making double what we did before. In particular, the public are buying vitamins and disinfection products," an employee at one Skopje pharmacy told BIRN.

The pandemic has already started changing the somewhat conservative habits of Macedonians, prompting a surge in online shopping, e-banking and the use of delivery services.

However, the sectors that have increased their income are only a...

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