Pewex

Pewex

Pewex (short for "Przedsiębiorstwo Eksportu Wewnętrznego" - "Internal Export Company") was a chain of hard currency shops in communist Poland. They sold otherwise unobtainable Western goods in exchange for Western currencies (most commonly the United States dollar and the Deutsche Mark) or Pekao bank checks.

History

In the late 1960s, it became apparent that the communist, centrally-planned economy of Poland was inefficient. The rule of Edward Gierek led to a short period of economic prosperity. With the aid of foreign loans, Gierek instituted a program to modernise industry and increase the availability of consumer goods. The standard of living increased markedly and for a time he was hailed a miracle-worker. The economy, however, began to falter during the 1973 oil crisis, and by 1976 price increases became necessary, mostly to ease the repayment of these loans.

To drain the hard currencies from Polish society, in 1972 the authorities permitted the creation of a network of Pekao shops under the auspices of the state-owned bank of the same name, in which foreign currency could be exchanged for foreign goods, unavailable to Poles at that time. Since ownership of foreign (hard) currency was forbidden and all dollars and marks had to be exchanged to Polish złotys immediately (at an unsurprisingly low rate of exchange), the authorities introduced Bon PeKaO checks, which were tied to the USD 1:1 and could be spent in Pekao shops. Later on the Pekao bank created a separate company, the Pewex.

For years, the Pewex shops were the most common way for people in Poland to participate in the achievements of Western consumer industry. Pewex offered a large variety of products unavailable otherwise to the Polish population. These included jeans, Coca-Cola, alcohol, sweets, toys, cigarettes, electronics, and colour TV sets. In addition, Pewex offered a number of Polish-made products that were otherwise for export only, including vodka and Krakus ham (hence the name "internal export"). Moreover, the Pewex chain was very popular among foreign tourists and diplomats, who could buy Western articles at very reasonable prices (sometimes even as low as 40% of their cost in the West) and tax free.

During the 1980s' economic crisis, when the state-owned shops for ordinary people offered barely anything, the Pewex shops were sometimes the only places where one could buy basic foodstuffs and other basic articles like toilet paper. Finally, in the 1980s, Pewex shops became one of the very few places in Poland where cars and flats could be bought without having to wait for several years.

After the peaceful dissolution of the communist economic system in Poland after 1989, the Polish economy was privatised and the ownership of foreign currency was legalised. This made the Pekao checks obsolete and soon afterwards most of goods that had been available from Pewex only started to be sold in private shops as well. In the mid-1990s, the chain was heavily mismanaged, eventually privatised but soon afterwards went bankrupt. Destruction of Pewex brand, one of the most recognizable in the People's Republic of Poland, is considered a good example of brand mismanagement.

ee also

* Baltona
* Corecom
* Intershop
* Shortage economy
* Tuzex

Further reading

*"Zlot a lot of dollars. (Pewex stores in Poland)", The Economist, May, 1988

External links

*pl icon [http://wiadomosci.onet.pl/1428496,720,kioskart.html Atlantyda Ludowa, czyli jak zmarnowano najlepszą markę PRL-u]
*Ewa Cander-Karolewska, [http://www.elve.net/padv/en/shop.htm#pewex Painted advertisement for Pewex] , 01.08.2007,


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