May 28 - Of 400 sex shops in Athens, there are now only 100 left and a hike in VAT on their wares has left the industry floundering. Joanne Nicholson reports.
A timely metaphor for the downward slide of the Greek economy. Pole dancers at the Erotic Dream Sex fair in Athens tout their wares to bolster support for their ailing industry. The goods on offer here might not have been to the taste of the goddess of love and sexuality, Aphrodite, but for traders here, the tragedy rumbles on as they find their livelihoods are at stake. (SOUNDBITE) (Greek) EXPO ORGANISER, VANGELIS CHARALAMBOUS, SAYING: "Due to the economic crisis many businesses have closed. In terms of visitor numbers we are doing well, but the number of vendors participating is less than in previous fairs." There were once 400 sex shops in Athens. That has now dwindled to just a hundred. The harsh austerity measures imposed in Greece - so they can meet the conditions of their 130 billion euro bailout - have meant people can't afford to spend money on life's little luxuries. VAT on these highly specialised products has been raised to 23 percent. This retailer says she's having to work very hard at her sales pitch: (SOUNDBITE) (Greek) SHOP CLERK, MARIALENA KOULOURI, SAYING: "People come in but they look around and then just leave. Its not like previous years where they would definitely buy three or four products. This time they might buy one product and that is with us pushing them to do so." With elections due on June 17th, and the possibility of Greece pulling out of the euro, businesses will be working hard to ensure they aren't laid bare. Maybe these ladies promoting a niche film set on the Greek island of Santorini, famed for sunsets and romance, can work wonders for the tourism industry too. Joanne Nicholson, Reuters