When Marcus Diekmann recently looked at the sales of his branches, he was shocked. On Friday, which is actually the most productive day of the week during the spring season and before the weekend, the Rose Bikes bike shop in Bocholt, with its 4000 square meters, only managed 20 percent of the normal visitor flow. Because of the federal emergency brake, customers have to test themselves in the store before they go shopping. That seems to scare people off. "This hurdle is too high," says the boss of the bicycle dealer. The obligation to test is extremely problematic, a disaster.
It sounds similar with other retailers. A complete closure of the shops is more economical, complains s.Oliver boss Claus-Dietrich Lahrs. And Timm Homann, head of the Ernsting's Family fashion chain, sees opening concepts with tests or booking appointments as "a ruinous, arbitrary and completely one-sided burden on retailers, which are already harassed by the forced closure."
The amended Infection Protection Act should actually have the opposite effect. It should put an end to the federal states going it alone in fighting pandemics and ensure clearer rules. In addition, the federal emergency brake enables shops to be opened when the incidence falls. But as good as a nationwide uniform strategy might sound for companies, it does Retailers more furious than ever. Many say that their predicament has been exacerbated by the new corona rules. There is an increasing jumble of specifications for their branches.
Dealers should be allowed to open at incidences between 100 and 150, but only for customers with a negative infection test. Obviously, however, many would prefer to use it for other situations than for shopping, visiting family or the hairdresser, for example.
According to a survey by the trade association HDE among member companies, shops that are open with mandatory testing lose an average of 70 percent of customer frequency at the time before the corona pandemic and almost 60 percent of sales. If the shops are completely closed, the decreases are only around ten percent higher.
Because of the fluctuating Corona incidences dealers also have to close their shops and then reopen them. Open, close, open, close: Entrepreneurs complain that many customers are completely unclear as to what exactly applies on site. That is also a deterrent. The rules as to whether branches can open are also changed at such short notice that it is hardly possible to react sensibly, says Rose Bikes boss Diekmann.
The question of how many customers are allowed to be in the store also causes some confusion. With a sales area of up to 800 square meters, one customer can actually be let in to shop for every 20 square meters. For larger stores, only one customer per 40 square meters. However, some federal states have set other, stricter rules for traders.
"From our point of view, the current regulations are not an opening perspective," says s.Oliver boss Lahrs. "We need reliability". In the textile trade in particular, new goods have to be planned well in advance, as the fashion for the turn of the year is now being developed and paid for. "We cannot simply stop this machine - as the past political measures taken at very short notice always suggest," says Lahrs.
In order not to completely scare off the customers and keep the employees, many retailers also open their shops when tests are required and only a few people willing to shop come. Usually the companies pay on top of it. For the employees who have been brought back from short-time work then there is no state aid, but the personnel costs are fully reflected, as are the rental costs. Many dealers have meanwhile concluded deals with their landlords, according to which they waive a large part of the rental costs with closed shops. When the dealers reopen, the entire rental payment is due.
"Cardboard sword instead of bazooka"
From the retailer's point of view, there is still a lack of financial compensation. Every day lockdown brings s.Oliver one million euros in operating profit loss, according to the company. According to the HDE survey, a sales backlog of 40 billion euros has accumulated in retail since the beginning of the year - compared to the pre-Corona period. At the same time, 60 percent of the trading companies were still waiting for some of their state aid.
"Without the turnover from thousands of forcibly closed branches, the retail sector lacks the financial means for investments," warns s.Oliver manager Lahrs. The consequence will be "the completely unnecessary closure of shops that were still in good health last year, combined with regrettable high job losses."
Finance minister's help Olaf Scholz, which he had promised at the beginning of the pandemic, "looks more like a cardboard sword" than the promised bazooka, criticizes Lahrs. Also that of the Minister of Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier The just announced payment of 100 billion euros in corona economic aid since March 2020 does not appease the companies. Half of the loans are expensive to repay Reconstruction Loan Corporation (KfW)Several dealers say that the rest is not enough.
Now several traders want to defend themselves against the requirements in the Infection Protection Act - and file a constitutional complaint in the next few weeks. They see themselves treated unequally, especially in comparison to the requirements for protection against corona, for example in open-plan offices, in government institutions or in industry.
The restrictions in retail are "disproportionately strong" complain several dealers, including Intersport, Tom Tailor, Ernsting's Family, Bonita and Rose Bikes. The definition of which companies are systemically relevant is also not transparent. Dealers criticize the fact that the department store chain Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof received extra state aid. "The political decision-makers have lost all compass," says Ernsting's boss Homann.
Restaurateurs want to support the advance of the trade. The group of hosts, an association of 200 catering companies from Tim Mälzer's restaurants to Block House, Käfer, Hans im Glück to L'Osteria, also feels that they have been treated unfairly. "Company canteens are allowed to open, in some hotels guests are served at dinner, you can dine behind security at the airport, but we still have to keep the interiors closed despite very good hygiene concepts," criticizes Mirko Silz, head of L'Osteria. As with retail, large restaurant chains would not be fully compensated because the EU right to aid limits aid money. "We lose almost four million euros a month, which is only offset to a small extent," complains Silz.
He also ensures that many employees are now being lost. The short-time work allowance is not enough for them to live, they are reorienting themselves. L'Osteria was already short of around 500 employees. Retailers also complain about a shortage of trainees because they cannot offer any prospects.