Border closure hits Narva shopping malls hard

The Astri shopping mall in Narva.
The Astri shopping mall in Narva. Source:

Shopping malls in Narva have seen custom and revenue fall by up to 20 percent as the result of the closure of Estonia's eastern border during the coronavirus pandemic, with some malls developing e-commerce channels.

The Narva river, on which the town of the same name lies, marks Estonia's northeastern frontier, and has long seen busy cross-border commerce coming over from the Russian Federation, often buying in bulk or spending money on expensive items, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

However, since spring the border has been closed, and with Russia's reported 14-day coronavirus rate exceeding the 25 per 100,000 inhabitants ceiling, it has not reopened since then.

Russia's coronavirus reported rate for the past 14 days is 50.79, the foreign ministry told ERR News Thursday morning.

"This means a fall in turnover and traffic of approximately 20 percent in Narva," Tarmo Kleimann, CEO of Astri and Fama shopping centers, told ERR.

Dairy products were a particularly popular item in pre-pandemic days, with the town's Rimi hypermarket being practically stripped of its cheese last Christmas. Rimi is now saying sales generally are down, by double-figure percentages.

Narva's branch of supermarket Prisma is slightly off the beaten track, however, and has been able to recover over summer from domestic sales alone, after a drop in cheese sales of around 8 percent, the company says.

Rimi says that rather than making lay-offs, staff worked reduced shifts, though the longer-term picture is harder to forecast, though the issue is set to continue further than initially expected when the pandemic broke, the company told ERR.

For this reason, some stores are developing their e-commerce capabilities further.

Tarmo Kleimann, CEO of Astri and Fama shopping malls, said this was going ahead, alongside an energy saving program to reduce fixed costs.

During much of the March to May emergency situation the government imposed in response to the pandemic, shopping malls remained closed nationwide, with the exception of pharmacies, bank offices, mobile phone stores and a few other outlets seen as essential.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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