To prevent overcrowded shops during the Christmas season, stricter rules for wholesale and retail will apply from December. The industry is sharply critical – and warns of unwanted consequences.
Lots of new infections, record number of deaths per day: the partial lockdown in November stopped exponential growth, but the coronavirus continues to spread too rapidly. The federal and state governments have therefore agreed on further restrictions.
In addition to the pubs, restaurants, clubs, theaters and cinemas that are still closed, the retail trade is particularly affected. Our overview shows which decisions have been made, what they mean for businesses and consumers, and what other ideas are still being discussed.
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What exactly was decided?
Up to now, a maximum of one person per 10 square meters was allowed in shops; this rule has now been tightened for larger stores with more than 800 square meters. From December onwards, only one person may be admitted per 20 square meters of sales area.
Large department stores and clothing stores such as the department stores of Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof or Peek & Cloppenburg are over 800 square meters in size. It is also new that the mask requirement already applies in front of the shops and in parking lots.
How is retail reacting?
Extremely critical. The trade association HDE considers this tiered concept to be nonsensical. There is no objective reason to issue different rules for sales areas above and below 800 square meters, said CEO Stefan Genth. Hygiene concepts have proven themselves in both small and larger rooms. “The new regulation could also be counterproductive if queues form in front of shops and in the city centers.”
The HDE boss also pointed out that the various rules for businesses of different sizes are legally questionable. The experiences from the spring showed that when initially only dealers with less than 800 square meters were allowed to open, which was subsequently questioned by the courts.
What do the resolutions mean for consumers?
If fewer people are allowed to be in shops at the same time, this could mean that you have to queue more for shopping – certainly not pleasant in the winter months. HDE boss Genth goes one step further and warns that if many customers stand close together in front of the shops, this creates new opportunities for infections. “Here unnecessary risks are taken that are absolutely avoidable,” he said in an interview with t-online.
The resolutions of the federal and state governments could also have psychological effects. The industry association BDI is of the opinion that consumer sentiment will also deteriorate for the rest of the year. “This will initially affect the temporary economic recovery in the coming year”, said association president Dieter Kempf.
Genth also believes that many customers find it daunting if they have to expect to queue up in the cold to go shopping. “In the case of downtown retailers, which have already been hard hit, and in particular the clothing trade, this could ultimately lead to a further decline in customers and sales.”
In the grocery trade, he suspects that queues could give customers the feeling that goods are scarce – and warns of renewed hamster purchases as a consequence.
What else is under discussion?
Because many retailers saw their sales collapse this year, Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU) again insists on more Sunday shopping for 2021.
“I would like to see what has been lost in sales this year, can be brought in again next year on Sundays that are open for business,” he told “Bild”. He asked all state governments and municipalities to be as generous and flexible as possible with the opening times.
Altmaier underpins his proposal with the statement that it is a “national, yes also a patriotic task” to maintain stationary retail. “Our inner cities are the result of a historical process. Bakeries, small grocery stores, bookstores, antique shops have developed over a long period of time and make our inner cities into meeting places and attractive for many people.” He doesn’t want to live in a city where there are only big chain stores.
Verdi criticizes Sunday openings as “completely unacceptable”
But it is precisely these who would primarily benefit from Sunday openings, said Orhan Akman, federal specialist group leader for retail at the Verdi service union, in an interview with t-online. “If the Federal Minister of Economics wants to end the cutthroat competition in the inner cities, he should advocate generally binding collective agreements in the retail sector and binding regulations for all companies,” Akman continued. It is completely unacceptable to take the retail workers’ only fixed day off.
Altmaier receives support from the FDP. It had already asked the federal states to allow retail outlets to open on as many Sundays as possible. The HDE would already welcome shopping Sundays “in order to straighten out the Christmas business in the inner cities,” said CEO Genth. After Corona, they would also have the potential to generate additional sales.