Germany’s trade sees itself well prepared for the second wave
Stand: 4:32 p.m. | Reading time: 3 minutes
The shops in Germany have so far not proven to be a source of infection, says the trade association and hopes for good Christmas business. That could save the existence of many a merchant.
DDespite the increasing number of contagions, retail does not expect a second wave of store closures during the important Christmas business ahead. He assumes that the requirements for a second corona lockdown are not in place, said Stefan Genth, General Manager of the German Retail Association (HDE), in Berlin when looking to the next few months.
The trade has proven that the hygiene concepts in the shops work. The merchants rely on the mask requirement, distance rules and Plexiglas partitioning at many checkouts, and payments are much less common in cash than before the outbreak of the pandemic.
“So far, even during the first lockdown phase, we have not been able to determine any significant number of cases among our employees, no major disease scenarios,” summarized Genth. Infections of customers in shops were also not known. In the spring, tens of thousands of grocery stores were still open, while most of the retail trade closed.
The merchants are now turning their hopes on consumerism for Christmas. “This year there will not only be Christmas, but also Christmas shopping,” said Genth optimistically. The general conditions regarding income and social security are good.
However, the Christmas business will shift more to the Internet than ever before. In the stationary business, the mask requirement may dampen the desire to buy, but it does not prevent customers from buying gifts, says the HDE. Finally, the mask also signals safety from infection.
E-commerce has been the growth engine in retail for years, but Corona has extremely deepened the gap between winners and losers. According to the HDE forecast, the businesses affected by the lockdown in March and April must expect sales losses of 21 billion euros this year.
Instead of 189 billion euros as in the previous year, only 168 billion euros should end up in their coffers – provided Genth’s confident assessments come in. In contrast, online trading is booming like never before. An expected sales increase of 15 percent compared to the previous year means that digital sales are likely to reach a level of 68 billion euros this year.
The 1.5 percent growth in retail sales forecast for 2020 says little about the individual case in view of the split. Even within stationary retail there are stark differences. In the first six months, bicycle dealers were able to sell their business by 28.5 percent compared to the same period in the previous year, and hardware stores and grocery stores were also doing well.
On the other hand, boutiques, clothing and shoe retailers had to accept losses of around 30 percent, and in the closing phase the business for sporting goods retailers and in toy stores was almost completely eliminated. These sectors, all concentrated on the city centers, will not be able to recover from this, at least this year.
In order to stop the decline of the inner cities, HDE President Josef Sankjohanser has brought a moderate liberalization of the Sunday opening into play. In the WELT interview, he had announced a constitutional lawsuit and, in an emergency, an initiative to amend the Basic Law.
According to this, shops should be allowed to open in the afternoon on four to twelve Sundays each year. In the short term, some Sundays could also be released for the Christmas business 2020 via the corona emergency regulations of the states. Genth pointed out that North Rhine-Westphalia Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) had announced additional Sunday openings on Monday in order to straighten out the Christmas business.
Because of the difficult situation in the clothing trade and the massive consequences of the epidemic for the city centers, Genth also called for changes to shop rents. The landlords would have to make compromises and the German Civil Code (BGB) adapted accordingly, he said.
It must be made clear that the government measures ordered in the pandemic are a reason to adjust the lease due to disruption of the business basis in accordance with Section 313 of the German Civil Code. “We have to get down from the top rents and get reasonable rents that pay off again for retailers,” demanded Genth.