A devastating storm hasn’t landed in Malta this week, but “sensationalist” forecasts predicting one have nonetheless had a damaging impact on local retail businesses, according to SME Chamber CEO Abigail Mamo.
Speaking to BusinessNow.mt, the business leader, whose chamber represents many of Malta’s retail outlets, reflects that it’s been “quite a negative week” for businesses in the sector, which are otherwise experiencing positive business conditions and anticipating a strong festive period.
This was particularly the case in the country’s capital, Valletta.
Retail in the city is especially badly hit when such reports (realised or unrealised) come about, because shoppers are more exposed to the elements there, and without on-site parking are forced to spend more time outside, she explains.
On the other hand, shopping malls are generally less badly impacted because customers can stay under shelter throughout their trip, and park in dedicated on site parking.
Ms Mamo reports that some businesses have expressed frustration at the fuss made of the bad weather in local media, which was “exaggerated to a sensationalist level”, despite the fact a catastrophic storm hasn’t yet been realised.
Local media outlets have indeed emphasised the potential scale of an incoming storm, with one popular mainstream news platform this week warning readers: “Brace yourself: Intense Mediterranean hurricane might make its way to Malta this weekend.”
Local media cannot be entirely blamed for this, as a leading local weather forecasting service, Malta Weather warned on Tuesday evening: “A Mediterranean HURRICANE or MEDICANE is expected to form to the southeast of Malta in the coming hours”.
Malta’s Met Office also anticipated adverse weather conditions, issuing an orange notice on Wednesday morning, predicting moderate to heavy showers with thunder on the day, and strong winds becoming very strong over affected areas.
Later on Wednesday, the same office moved to calm alarm, forecasting that a brewing so-called ‘medicane’ would miss the country, leaving it facing wet and windy – but not catastrophic – weather.
Additionally, aside from in the media, Ms Mamo says that people on social media were sharing photos and videos of the almost apocalyptic scenes in Sicily, as storms have flooded cities, further creating panic about an incoming storm.
There is a silver lining to the bad weather though, she acknowledges, as it seems to have kickstarted the winter season, seeing shoppers invest in cold weather clothing, helping giving sales levels a boost earlier in the year than would normally happen.
More generally, Ms Mamo reflects that its been a “very positive” period for retail, after the decimation wrought by the pandemic.
“Business has been picking up, as tourists have been increasing,” she says, referring to the unseasonal rise in tourist numbers last month.
“Month on month, businesses are seeing sales levels and demand in general improving,” she expands.
Looking to the future, she indicates that retail businesses are expecting a strong winter season, as November, once a very slow month for business with Black Friday, is now one of the industry’s best.
Ms Mamo also celebrated the newly-found stability created by the discounting of a rumoured November election, which she had previously warned could have a major impact on the vital festive period for shops.
As things stand, “we look set to have a very nice, and very positive winter shopping period,” she concludes.
Crowds defying bleak weather conditions on Valletta’s Republic Street on Wednesday afternoon
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