The newspaper kiosk – the “periptero” (περίπτερο) in Greek – is as Greek as the souvlaki or Acropolis, or bureaucracy. Yet, the yellow kiosk typically surrounded by everything from newspapers and magazines to toys and cookies, will sooner or later become a thing of the past.
For over a century, the newspaper kiosk; that is synonymous to Greece, has been the meeting point of the neighborhood, in big cities and small villages. It is the place where Greeks visit at least once a day for their nicotine fix, or their daily dose of news and information. For kids, it is where they get their candy or chocolate bars.
The kiosk owner has multiple roles. He is the center of information for the radius around the kiosk. He knows all the gossip of the neighborhood and he could actually be considered a private detective; psychoanalyst; news agency; sports guru; political analyst; or all of the above. In times of prosperity, the kiosk owner could also be considered a successful businessman.
Up until a decade ago, in order to get a kiosk license you needed to have a lot of money, or good connections (mostly both). However today, the countdown to extinction for a great Greek tradition, has begun.
Since the beginning of the economic crisis, a total 5,000 kiosks have closed down. Profit margins became prohibitive, as Greeks could no longer afford the few extra pennies’ difference, for the same product they could find cheaper at the supermarket. Also, the fact that many Greeks quit smoking; no longer being financially able to support their addiction, made them stop their visits to the kiosk altogether. The same with newspapers and magazines: Greeks get their news on the internet, faster and free so they no longer need printed media. Furthermore, rents for the kiosks have risen, along with more taxes
Most of the kiosks that shut down have been demolished. Some still stand as constructions, but they sell other kinds of merchandise. “From 11,000 kiosks in early 2010, now we are down to about to 5,700 kiosks. We have about half of them left. The financial crisis has hit us. Market developments, such as the creation of chains, have also had an impact on our industry,” chairman of the Association of Professional Kiosk Tobacco Sellers, Theodoros Mallios told Iefimerida.gr news website.
Mallios also told Iefimerida.gr that the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products were the main revenue of a typical kiosk. But with many people quitting smoking, and the rise in distribution of contraband cigarettes, has dealt a fatal blow to the kiosks.
“The continued taxation of tobacco products has been crushing us. It was 73.5% before 2010 and now we are at 90%. With very simple mathematics one understands how much it affects us. We had 26.5 cents to share between the tobacco producer to the retailer and the kiosk owner. Now we only have 10 cents to share between us,” Mallios said.
“Every year we are getting less and less. Every day that passes a kiosk is gone,” Mallios told Iefimerida.gr, adding that only the kiosks around the Acropolis and Plaka are still standing on their feet, as they mainly depend on tourists.