Small stores around Czechia giving way to supermarkets

Small stores around the country are fast disappearing, giving way to multinational chains which are better able to withstand the impacts of the energy crisis and two-digit inflation. In the last ten years over 4,000 small stores –butchers, bakers and specialty shops - have had to close down after customers turned to cheaper products on supermarket shelves.

Photo: Ondřej Wolf,  Czech Radio

Marek Baštýř, owner of a family bakery in Lomnice nad Lužnicí proudly takes a gold-crusted loaf out of the oven. This is one of their specialties –a type of bread baked since 1992 according to a family recipe, which attracted customers from far and wide.

Now Baštýř says the bakery is struggling to survive. It still produces high quality breads, rolls and pastries, but they no longer sell like they used to. Production costs are three times higher than they were a year ago. Although the bakery increased prices by an average 50 percent, the profits are minimal. The owner says the last few years have been tough.

"Our orders started to fall, then Bohemia Energy went bankrupt. We had to switch to spot energy prices, which really hit us hard. Our financial reserves are exhausted. We are only just able to cover energy costs and pay salaries. There is no money left for investments. We are only just making do and it’s a struggle.”

Photo: Barbora Navrátilová,  Radio Prague International

Dozens of small bakeries closed for similar reasons last year and others are considering it. Energy and raw materials have become more expensive, and the end products have become too expensive for customers who have started saving in a big way and heading for the nearest supermarket to do so. Small stores are in no position to compete –they cannot afford to give discounts or get benefits from suppliers due to relatively low sales volumes.

Ironically, it is due to the collapse of some small stores that others in the region –such as the Baštýř family bakery - are able to survive. However retaining their clientele has become a hard feat. Local products, good quality and sustainability are no longer a priority and for most people it is the price that is decisive. Some villages have been left entirely without a local mixed goods store and the locals have to do their shopping by car elsewhere.

The Baštýř bakery is determined to hang on for as long as possible.

"We took over some customers from other bakeries which had to quit, because they couldn't stand the pressure anymore. Given the circumstances we changed our strategy a bit - we had to let go  those customers who were pushing us to lower prices beyond our means.”

Marek Baštýř says that, despite the hard times and uncertain future, he is determined not to let the family business fold. Spring is in the air and he says the tourist season may bring more customers and better profits.

Authors: Daniela Lazarová , Jitka Cibulová Vokatá
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