Continued closure of malls questioned as Christmas shoppers crowd Barcelona's city center

Long lines seen outside stores as people take advantage of bank holiday to buy gifts

Barcelona's Portal de l'Àngel on December 8, 2020 (by Gemma Sánchez)
Barcelona's Portal de l'Àngel on December 8, 2020 (by Gemma Sánchez) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

December 9, 2020 11:43 AM

Barcelona's city center was busy again on Tuesday evening as shoppers flooded the streets surrounding Plaça Catalunya where many stores are located.

Just as on Saturday, crowds could be seen in the afternoon and evening as many enjoyed their bank holiday.

Retail stores have 30% capacity caps in place, leading to long lines outside shops as people await their turn to enter.

Images of packed streets reopened the debate on shopping malls in surrounding neighborhoods – should they remain closed? Or could opening them ease some of the pressure on the city center?

Under the current de-escalation phase 1shopping malls cannot open, although department stores in the city center like El Corte Inglés can do so.

Reconsidering closure of malls

On Wednesday, a protest joined by over a hundred people working in malls was held in the Catalan capital's Plaça Sant Jaume. 

Interim Catalan president Pere Aragonès does not attribute the busy city center streets to shopping malls being shut.

"The country has a wide array of commercial businesses and crowding can happen anywhere," he said.

Yet, the head of the Civil Protection authority, Sergio Delgado, said on Wednesday that they would "analyze" whether it is appropriate to continue barring shopping centers from reopening. He suggested that allowing those in open-air places could reduce the number of shoppers in the center.

Part of the opposition is also focusing on shopping malls. For instance, the People's Party's parliamentary spokesperson, Santi Rodríguez, urged the government to open them in order to avoid crowding in the center.

30% drop in Christmas sales on last year

Shops expected to sell around 10% of their total Christmastime sales over the long weekend ending on Tuesday. This, however, does not look likely as Catalonia will stay in reopening phase 1, meaning that tight restrictions in retail stores will remain in place.

Organizations like Comertia estimate there will be a 30% drop in sales compared to the Christmas season last year.