BY HAKAN GULDAG, VAHAP MUNYAR, SEREF OGUZ
Q: WHAT’S THE ROLE OF OCCUPATIONAL GROUPS AND WORKPLACES UNDER THE UMBRELLA OF THE CONFEDERATION OF TURKISH TRADESMEN AND CRAFTSMEN ˷TESK˸ IN THE ECONOMY?
A: As a community with over two million of tradespeople and craftspeople, we have the largest share in the economy, employment and taxes. SMEs generate 75.8% of jobs in Turkey. 96% of all enterprises are SMEs, 92% of which are micro-sized enterprises, which are tradespeople and craftspeople. The indirect tax paid by them are above their tax capacity. They continue to be the economy’s barometer.
For example, there are over 200,000 grocery stores in Turkey. If each of their charge accounts are assumed to amount to TRY 10,000 (which is conservative), their receivables have great importance for the economy. Charge accounts are also the most important category preventing social unrest. Alongside grocers, nearly 50% of two million tradespeople makes sales on these accounts.
However, small retailers have started to disappear due to the perception that supermarket chains are cheaper. They have the motto of ‘retail sales at wholesale prices’ but actually, they are more expensive than a mom-and-pop stores. These unfair price increases raise inflation. The most important way for ending unfair competition is updating the Retail Law in order to meet tradespeople’s demand. Their openings must be regulated with the Retail Law.
Q: WHAT’S THE SITUATION OF SMALL RETAILERS BEFORE AND AFTER COVID˹19?
A: Unfair competition and irregularity in business openings were the most important problems before COVID-19. Business openings without training waste national wealth and owners’ savings. Feasibility studies must be properly done. Professional specialization should be encouraged by employing certificates of competency. Shopping malls and supermarket chains operating on every corner and street compete unfairly. Tradespeople struggle for life by trying compete against big capital.
The pandemic had an adverse impact on over two million tradespeople and craftspeople in Turkey. Businesses operating in entertainment, recreation, health and sports sectors directly suspended activities with the circular letter from the Health Ministry. Moreover, nearly 20,000 canteens closed, over 400,000 school bus drivers couldn’t work and school supply stores couldn’t do business as schools transitioned to online education. Those whose activities were limited to takeaway services were the most negatively affected businesses by the pandemic. Public transport was only able to operate at 50% capacity. Minibus and public bus tradespeople who need to fill up their vehicles operated at a loss. The wedding sector was interrupted. Wedding venues, photographers, florists, and tens of occupations related to the sector are still experiencing difficulties.
The activities of many businesses were limited with the latest measures taken with the rise of new cases. Even if our tradespeople aren’t intubated, they are in intensive care because of only partial supports. It seems unlikely that they will be discharged from intensive care before workplaces are completely opened and turned to normal.Within the scope of supports, 1,316,000 applications in total have been made for the support packages announced during the pandemic. Since applications were online, a great number of tradespeople couldn’t apply. That’s why the application period was postponed to March 31, 2021.
Q: WHAT CHANGES HAVE TAKEN PLACE FOR OCCUPA˹ TIONAL GROUPS AND WORKPLACES UNDER TESK OVER THE LAST TWO DECADES?
A: Tradespeople struggle with unfair competition. In the past, they sold all products from A to Z but now they battle to survive. A transformation process has begun for those who used to operate using traditional methods. For example, tailors trying to survive on minor work such as repair and alterations have also started to give bespoke tailoring services to the high-income class. We will continue to see this change in other occupation lines in the near future.
Q: HOW DO TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS AND DIGITALIZATION AFFECT TESK MEMBERS?
A: Home deliveries and online shopping have increased with technology’s development. Some of our members moved to such applications with the pandemic’s impact. Generally, those who embrace these changes experience rising turnovers. Businesses of tradespeople who can’t adapt to technology come to a halt. We are cooperating with the Ministry of Trade to help these businesses develop e-commerce capabilities. We carry out work to expand their awareness with technological developments and digitalization training.
Q: WHERE DO YOU SEE SMALL RETAILERS IN THE NEXT 10˹20 YEARS?
A: There is no decrease in the number of tradespeople even in the world’s most developed countries. However, they change themselves in terms of diversity and technology usage. The extinction of small retailers adversely affects the economy and ends a culture which has continued for centuries. They will survive in accordance with changing demand. They must be protected, supported and developed in order to prevent their extinction.