Catalonia's newsstands keep on opening through the health crisis
Considered an essential service, 85% of news vendors are open, although sales have dropped by half due to the coronavirus restrictions
Stopping off at the newsstand to pick up the daily paper is a morning ritual for many people and while the coronavirus restrictions have caused a big drop in demand, Catalonia's newsstand owners are determined to keep on going through the health crisis.
Some 85% of the country's newsstands remain open, says the professional association that represents the sector in Barcelona, although it adds that most newspaper vendors are keeping to a much-reduced daily timetable while the pandemic lasts.
What's more, general demand has dropped by 50%, which has reached 70% in some tourist areas, as fewer people leave their homes. Yet, relatively few newsstand owners have decided to pull down their shutters and many say they intend to soldier on.
Considered an essential service under the terms of the state of alarm, many newspaper sellers see opening as part of their obligation to help people stay informed: "You have a responsibility to your customers and the local community," as Isidre Martínez puts it.
Martínez owns a newsstand in the Monumental area of Barcelona, and as four others nearby are closed, the drop-off in customers at his booth has been compensated by new customers who might normally have gone to one of the others.
Half of newsstands have closed down in 10 years
Yet, it is a challenging time for newspaper sellers, whose sector has been affected by a crisis that has seen half of newsstands close in the past 10 years. "If you close, there's no recovering," says Julio Dueñas, the head of Tarragona's news vendors association.
"While they allow us to open, we will stay open," says Martínez, who adds that "there is the economic reason" to think of, while Máximo Frutos, who has a newsstand in Poblenou in Barcelona, says, "I've decided to open because you have to continue to pay costs."
Frutos is also the vice president of Barcelona's news vendors association and he says the decision about whether to close or stay open is "very personal" and that "it's very difficult to tell someone whether they should close or not."
Fewer sales, the same costs
In Tarragona, 37 of 311 news vending outlets have closed during the crisis, while sales have plummeted 70%. "The costs of staying open remain the same," says Dueñas, who points out that there has been no help from distributors, who continue to earn the same.
In Italy, the authorities have launched a plan to aid newsstand owners, who can claim back up to 4,000 euros on essential expenses like rent. However, Martínez says "I have no confidence in help from the authorities; we shouldn't expect anything good."
However, it is not all bad news, as the restrictions keeping people at home has led to an upswing in sales of children's magazines, gossip publications, and games books. "It's amazing how many puzzle books are selling these days," says Frutos.