“It would be a Pyrrhic victory if the number of infections fell slightly, while the 800,000 people who work in retail will soon be on the street.” This is evident from a recent interview in the FD. Earlier he spoke mildly MarketingTribune: ‘Mirage Retail Group calls for responsible entrepreneurship and clarity’. Patience and one-sided solidarity now seem to be running out.
Now that it is almost certain that the cabinet will extend the lockdown by at least two weeks after 19 January 2021 and RIVM director Jaap van Dissel does not even expect the first relaxation until mid-February, Witteveen thinks it is time for a less diplomatic tone. ‘A lot of shopkeepers cannot afford it if they have to stay closed for weeks. The government kills an entire industry in one go. ‘ Witteveen is one of the largest retail entrepreneurs in the Netherlands. His Mirage Retail Group includes well-known names such as Blokker, the Intertoys toy stores and the electronics chain BCC. A total of about 10,000 people work at these companies, the FD recalls.
According to Witteveen in the business newspaper, the corona policy has become ‘a virologist party. I don’t feel that people in government understand the impact of their decisions. And it is easy for civil servants who receive their salary to be paid every month. ‘
The bill is paid dearly
That is different for retailers. Since the ongoing lockdown from mid-December 2020, total retail sales have completely dried up, apart from online sales. ‘In the meantime, many fixed costs continue to run: rent, insurance, salaries. The government regulations that affected entrepreneurs can claim are, according to Witteveen, ‘a cloth for the bleeding’. For example, the government compensates up to 80% of the wage costs of companies, but the remainder is borne by the entrepreneur who is deprived of turnover. And the allowance for fixed costs is a maximum of € 20,000 per company. That is a very good arrangement for someone with one store, but it is nothing for a large retail company. ‘ In addition, retailers already ordered their spring stock months ago, the Mirage CEO warns. ‘It will arrive in the coming weeks, and must also be paid in the following period. And that is difficult, in the absence of a tinkling cash register. Witteveen feels that the shops have to be closed as a form of arbitrariness. According to the RIVM figures, the retail trade is not one of the major sources of infection. ‘
He is optimistic for his own stores, but it is expected that if measures are extended unnecessarily, they will soon reopen in an otherwise failed shopping street full of closed doors. “That is of no use to me either,” said the top retailer. Read more at the FD.
(PvWK, sources: FD, Retailradar and MarketingTribune, photo: MRG)
Watch here: [update] Thoughtful Thursday 4: with retail top man Michiel Witteveen