More than 80% of commercial and catering establishments demand training in online activity, community management and ICT tools. These sectors demand training in digitization but also in business management in the current context and with the changes in trends that the pandemic has accelerated. 

 The Barcelona City Council plans to impact more than 6,000 people and more than 1,300 businesses in 2021 through training, expert accompaniment, aid and subsidies, with a budget of € 4.75 million. Through Barcelona Activa, the City Council already executes digitization plans for businesses and specific programs and aid for both sectors, as well as quarterly -or longer-term- training for people who work in these areas. Thanks to the results of this study, the municipal entity will adapt its support plans for small businesses and restaurants. 

See the study here. 

Last Friday, May 21, together with the Barcelona City Council, through the Directorate of Commerce and Barcelona Activa, we presented our study ‘Diagnosis, new trends and needs in the Commerce and Restoration sectors of Barcelona “, carried out this year 2021 by the VET Observatory. To do so, we have considered both the post-pandemic context and the impact of the economic crisis derived from the sector, as well as other factors that are also sensitive and in processes of change since before the Covid-19 outbreak.  

The study analyzes the impact on the sector, both in Barcelona and in cities of the metropolitan area, and has been done through field work that collects 252 responses from 178 businesses, 78 hotel establishments, and 26 interviews (12 in the commerce sector and 14 to the restaurant sector). As a result, the study indicates that more than 80% of the establishments demand training in at least one field in terms of online activity, community creation and ICT tools. In addition, they also call for a more careful management of business with the new context, since the sector concludes that it is not prepared to address the new challenges and profound changes that new consumption habits and new trends are experiencing at great speed.  

From the municipal public sphere and the BCN Professional Training Foundation, we focus on this sector, on the one hand, because it has been and still is one of the most affected by the crisis, either due to the reduction in income or the closure of establishments, and for the consequences of confinements or partial opening hours. In addition, almost a quarter of Barcelona’s population that are currently unemployed are workers in one of these sectors (more than 14,000 in the commerce sector, 35% more than the previous year, and more than 10,000 in the restaurant sector, 55 % more are currently unemployed). In Barcelona, ​​31% of the unemployed that have been generated by the Covid-19 crisis come from restaurants or commerce. 

One out of every 3 unemployed people is from the retail or restaurant sector 

Currently, this sector employs 204,000 people in the city. Of the total workforce, 19 out of every 100 people in Barcelona work in restaurants or commerce. Also, as a more exhaustive data, one in every 3 new unemployed since the pandemic began comes from one of these two sectors. Globally, the sectors discussed constitute two central elements of the economic and social dynamics of Barcelona that represent 32% of the business fabric. Commerce represents 12.8% of the city’s GDP and 21% of weight in the business fabric. The restoration, for its part, brings together 8.2% of the people who work, as well as 10.8% of the business fabric. 

The result of this study allows the implementation of new actions to the plans already executed by the Barcelona City Council to turn these numbers around, and impact both people and businesses, so that they can make the changes that the trends and society of the 21st century demand. The Barcelona City Council plans to impact more than 6,000 people and more than 1,300 businesses in 2021 through training, expert accompaniment, aid and subsidies, with a budget of € 4.75 million.  

Through Barcelona Activa, the City Council already executes digitization plans for businesses and specific programs and aid for both sectors, as well as quarterly, or longer-term training, for people who work in these areas. Thanks to the results of this study, the municipal entity will adapt its support plans for small businesses and restaurants. 

16.4% make purchases in neighborhood stores or markets 

This study wanted to analyze the trends that revolutionize the commerce and catering sectors, aiming to generate better experiences and a greater degree of sustainability. Likewise, it has analyzed the threats of small businesses, taking into account that large establishments and commercial chains are the choice of 66.1% when buying food, compared to the 16.4% who make purchases in neighborhood stores or markets, and otherwise, the introduction of new habits derived from online sales. 

Among the trends in the field of commerce are:  

  • New technologies: both electronic commerce and electronic improvements in the physical store. 
  • Environmental sustainability: inseparable from new lifestyles and commitments as a society with the global agenda. 
  • Fair trade: promoting decent wages and conditions.  
  • Experiences at the point of sale: promoting links with the customer with authenticity and creating good perceptions. 
  • Multichannel: integrating online and offline sales. 

And in the field of catering: 

  • Type of products: Food trends point towards an increase in fresh and local products. 
  • Ecological consumption: it becomes increasingly relevant for consumer satisfaction. 
  • Food delivery: the impact of Covid-19 has further fueled this trend. 
  • Technological services: online systems to make reservations and manage orders.  

The training actions that the study collects are aimed at professional profiles with versatility and digital skills, which respond to questions of organization, digitization, business presentation and customer orientation. These types of training stand out in both sectors: 

  • General strategy: an X-ray of the sector is needed, an individualized strategic plan on how to improve the negotiation tools. 
  • Business management: both management, financing and economics programs, as well as customer relations. 
  • Digitization: it is requested to scale the training levels in terms of sales management, trade stock, office automation, social networks and web page content, among others. 
  • Home delivery: integration of this professional profile within the comprehensive online system and use of the platforms indicated for this purpose. 
  • Promotion on social networks: specific trainings for Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp Business, etc., to make the internet visible and attract the public in the establishment. 
  • Information: more robust technical knowledge of products and services. 
  • Generational differences: both from the point of view of consumers and merchants, it is requested to take into account the different realities and audiences. 
  • Product: maximum specialization in products is considered adequate. For example, the butchery sector, where business changes are taking place, no longer only pieces or cuts of products are sold, as was traditionally done, but they incorporate ready-to-eat preparations, as observed in current demand. Following the case of the butcher shop, it is considered that there is a shortage of specialized professionals, and specific training is required to fill vacancies. 
  • Proximity: as a result of Covid-19, trends in neighborhood commerce have been detected and training is demanded that adds value to proximity. 
  • Online sales: advanced level training is requested and associating small businesses with familiarization with the new stock techniques of virtual commerce. 
  • Window dressing: need for training in window dressing and decoration. 
  • Experiences: The importance of innovating in small businesses through experiences to attract sales is highlighted. 
  • Customer relationship: loyalty and training actions to interact with potential buyers. 
  • Sustainability: entrepreneurs and catering establishments are increasingly interested in this type of sustainable catering.  

Carrying out this study in order to impact both employment and the same fields of activity of commerce and restaurants, are part of the measures of the CECORE, the Center for the Coordination of Economic Response, carried out by the Barcelona City Council from the beginning of this crisis, to act quickly and respond to the citizenship and economic needs of the city. Since the beginning of CECORE, a set of actions aimed, among others, to accompany the digital transformation processes have been incorporated. For example, the Commerce Digitization Plan put into practice has allowed Barcelona Activa to train, in just over a year, about 3,400 people (69% women, in which 19% are self-employed), as well as serving and advising 461 companies ; or e-commerce programs and technical and digital support in companies. 

The Barcelona City Council recently announced other initiatives that combine the digitization of shops and the attraction of more face-to-face customers, bringing more life to the neighborhoods and energizing the sectors, through an innovative laboratory: BCN Retail Lab, carried out in CTecno and the Beabloo company. A project, in this case, scalable up to 2,500 businesses in the city in the next 2 years. On the other hand, another reactivation program underway by Barcelona Activa is Comerç a Punt, aimed to more than 270 businesses, to define new business strategies and develop formulas to encourage new demand. And other more creative programs such as Dissenyem Comerç, to improve the commercial hubs of the neighborhoods.  

Regarding the needs of people who work in these sectors, the future prospects, from the municipal level, will be to increase the offer of reskilling and upskilling, applying the needs detected in the study. Thus, the report concludes that around half of the establishments require training to identify actions and for customer loyalty, as well as methods of presenting the products. In this way, Barcelona Activa includes in its plan new professionalizing training itineraries, among them, preparation of fishing products in the establishment, or specialist in cheese and dairy, among others, and capsules and workshops, such as the preparation of sale of olives, salted cod, organic and local products. 

Optimistic forecasts  

However, despite the strong impact by Covid-19, there are more optimistic forecasts, since, according to the Private Consumption data treated by the OMD with respect to the first quarter of 2021, it is extracted that the commercial recovery index stands at 113.95%. In a positive sense, according to the data from the survey on the activity of the commercial sector in Barcelona in relation to services related to digitization, payment by card and mobile is consolidated and orders with mobile applications are increasing. Regarding the availability of web pages in these sectors, they have risen 4.4% points compared to the previous year.  

On a global scale, CEDEFOT (European Center for the Development of Vocational Training) highlighted the need to develop, update and improve job skills to face rapidly changing labor markets, such as shops and restaurants. The key training for the new tasks of digital jobs, the new ways of working, and the contribution of the competitiveness of these sectors are seen.