The kiosk, or ”periptero,” as Greeks call it, is an integral part of everyday life in Greece, selling everything from newspapers and cigarettes to snacks, soft drinks and ice creams. However, the economic crisis, the pandemic, and new consumer habits have all conspired in the decline of kiosks, which are now in danger of becoming history.
For over a century, the newspaper kiosk, synonymous with Greece, has been the meeting point of the neighborhood in big cities and small villages alike. It is the place 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 and chocolate bars.
The Periptero owner takes on multiple roles. He is the center of information for the radius around the kiosk. He might also know all the neighborhood gossip, and he could actually be considered a private detective, psychoanalyst, newsagent, sports guru, political analyst, or all of the above. In times of prosperity, the kiosk owner could also be considered a successful businessman.
Nowadays, of the 9,904 kiosks across Greece in 2010, just 4,985 remain open for business today. Of those, a thousand are officially within the Municipality of Athens, though only four hundred are currently in operation. Sadly, only a few weeks ago, the local authority axed a further twenty-eight kiosks, many of them in central locations.
The licenses for almost a third of vacant kiosks are allocated by municipalities to vulnerable people looking for a source of income while the remaining unwanted businesses are auctioned off.
Changing consumer habits have also impacted kiosks. Many Greeks have quit smoking, as supporting their addiction is no longer financially feasible. This has caused them to stop going to Periptero altogether, and the same can be said about newspapers and magazines. People get their news faster for free on the internet, and so printed media is no longer essential.
In addition, the change in regulatory authority has deeply impacted kiosks. The Ministry of National Defence that was responsible for the operation of the Periptero was replaced by the Ministry of the Interior, and the local government created a stricter framework regarding the occupation of public spaces.
The COVID-19 pandemic also played a key role in closing many kiosks, as those located in central Athens and other larger cities saw their clientele decrease dramatically due to the lockdowns in general but especially due to the closed hospitality businesses. Distance education and remote work also played a role in this.
Moreover, nowadays, consumers prefer to do their daily shopping in small outlets with both parking and a wide range of products from which to choose.
1911: Greece welcomes its first kiosk (Periptero)
The first kiosk in Athens opened in 1911 on Panepistimiou Street, and the idea of the kiosk soon made its way throughout Greece, becoming an institution. When kiosks began hanging up newspapers, people would gather around to look at the headlines, often starting conversations with neighbors and the kiosk owner based on the news.
In neighborhoods, the kiosk owner was well-known and well-liked, and he was informed about all the gossip and news around the area. He could essentially talk to you about basically anything, including sports and political developments.
But recession hit kiosks hard. The necessarily steeper prices drove people away. In the past, people would buy candy or soft drinks from the kiosk; now, they go to the supermarket to purchase the same products at a lower price. It was the beginning of the end.
Out of the 1,080 kiosks in Athens alone, almost half have closed down, and about three hundred of them have been abandoned. The municipality has forced most kiosks to be removed from sidewalks, and very few closed ones are left standing, reminding passers-by of days of prosperity.