Since the shops are allowed to open again, queues have formed in many places in front of the shops and department stores. But these images are deceptive, they do not signal a real upswing. The number of visitors is well below normal.
In Berlin, buyers are besieging KaDeWe, the classic consumer temple of the capital. In Munich, queues of people are sighted in front of the Hugendubel bookshop. In front of the Media Markt on Düsseldorf’s Kö shopping street is a gentleman with a floral fabric mask in a long row, always nice and at a distance. “I’m already waiting a quarter of an hour, but that’s actually still possible,” he says. His mood is good, he’ll be allowed to go straight in. Ikea customers need more patience. In the past few days, the cars have been piling up in front of the parking lots of the furniture stores, and there has been talk of waiting times of up to two hours.
Even if the restriction to 800 square meters of retail space still applies in some federal states, even if the Bavarians were only relaxed at the beginning of this week retail trade Put into force: Germany’s cities give the impression that with the return of shopping after the Corona paralysis, life returns.
The joy is palpable – with customers and dealers. “Close to the heart – despite a distance of 1.5 meters”, the sales team at HM. The clothing chain anthropology announces in big, colorful letters: “Welcome back!”
The Kaufhof an der Kö has cut back its space from 21,000 to the prescribed 800 square meters with red and white flutter tape – only employees, for example, are allowed to go to the clothing departments. But the staff is highly motivated. “If you know roughly what you want, say it,” says a saleswoman to the customer. “We will sort it out.”
The atmosphere is good when passers-by stroll along sunlit shopping streets again, but there is something deceptive about it. The queues in front of the shops do not ultimately stem from an increased desire to buy, but from the determination to keep a distance. “Due to the current situation, we limit access to our store to four people,” announce business.
Notices are omnipresent, reminiscent of the obligation to wear a mask and the requirement of distance. At least ten, and in some federal states 20 square meters of retail space must be available to every customer. Perhaps the most sobering is the lack of gastronomy. When restaurant chairs are stacked on empty tables in shopping centers, when cafes are locked with padlocks, many consumers simply feel homeless in their own city.
The few customers are determined to buy
Sober numbers confirm the impression. Last Saturday, 4,494 passers-by were counted on Neuhauser Strasse in Munich, a whopping 70 percent less than in pre-Corona times, as the ZIP real estate association determined. The shops in the Bavarian capital were still closed, apart from supermarkets. But even on Cologne’s Schildergasse, the drop was barely lower, at 65 percent and just under 4,400 passers-by an hour – almost two weeks after the reopening of smaller shops in North Rhine-Westphalia.
She sees elsewhere Saturday frequency the pedestrian hardly looks any better: minus 52 percent on Spitaler Strasse in Hamburg, minus 50 percent on Frankfurter Zeil, minus 51 percent on Stuttgart’s Königstrasse. According to the ZIP, the number of visitors to the large shopping centers is similarly weak, from the Ernst August Gallery in Hanover to the “Limbecker Platz” in Essen.
Companies feel the trend painfully. “The visitors are curious, but the number of visitors in the city centers and shopping centers is significantly below the level before the Corona crisis,” says Mark Langer, the boss of Hugo Boss. The apparel company has currently closed more than 75 percent of its 1,000 stores worldwide. However, customers who come to the shops are usually determined to buy. “We hope for a slow recovery,” said Langer.
Depending on the product group, the picture is mixed. “We are satisfied,” says a spokeswoman for Media Saturn, for example: “There is great interest in everything that has to do with home office.” Even where the 800-square-meter rule still applies, there are webcams, Tablets or printer cartridges are extremely popular.
However, it is difficult to foresee whether and how quickly things will go up again with retail. The level of uncertainty among consumers about the consequences of the crisis is far too great for a mood to spend. The consumer barometer of the German Trade Association (HDE) fell to an absolute low in May for the second month in a row. “Never before has a decline as great as now from April to May had to be recorded within a month,” says the evaluation.
Even if the restrictions were largely lifted in a few weeks, private consumption would still be “characterized by reluctance for a very long time”. The index had been hovering around the 102 to 100 point mark for four years with a slight downward trend, before falling abruptly to 90.53 index points.
There are increasing numbers of observers who believe that the corona crisis has triggered a permanent shift in shopping away from cities and real shops to the Internet.
“People who weren’t comfortable with e-commerce and other digital technologies were led to to overcome their hesitationAccenture Consulting summarizes the results of an international survey. Both the extent and the pace of change are surprising: “Changes that would otherwise have taken years are reduced to just a few weeks.”
Even if the fears of recession subside, the buying mood without restaurants, cafés and pubs should remain on the ground. “We now urgently need an opening perspective nationwide,” Ingrid Hartges, head of the industry association Dehoga, told WELT.
But after eight weeks of complete closure, the industry could not get back on its feet. The previous liquidity aids and Loans from the federal and state governments were far from sufficient. “The companies now need a rescue fund with direct financial aid – simple, quick and unbureaucratic”, Hartges demands with regard to the conference of the federal states with the chancellor on Wednesday.