Shortly before the lockdown in December, people went shopping on Obernstrasse in Bremen. (Christina Kuhaupt)
According to experts, the pandemic is intensifying retail trends. “There is a structural change that is clearly being accelerated by this pandemic,” says Jens Ristedt, Chairman of the Bremen City Initiative. Digitization is forcing retail to rethink. Dealers would have to think about how the way to the customer could look if he cannot get into the shop.
In addition, no matter how hard it may sound, Corona opened up new opportunities in the city centers because shops would have to close. “The cities will mix more clearly in the future,” says the owner of the Ristedt fashion house in the city center. He also sees good potential for this in the city – for example for new concepts or living.
Jan König from Handelsverband Nordwest emphasizes that the mix of gastronomy, facilities and culture in a city has to be right. “If that is not there, it will no longer work,” says the managing director. The lockdown from November onwards clearly showed how important this mix is. Because of what is on offer on the Internet, customers will no longer be lured into city centers just for shopping. The Christmas business was “a disaster” even before the shops closed. On top of that, retailers also lacked the important phase between Christmas and New Year.
Shops in the fashion sector in particular recorded losses because the occasions were missing, for example. What now happens to the seasonal goods? “It will be very difficult to sell next year – if at all,” estimates König. The spring goods arrive in January and February.
Already felt clearly before the lockdown
Fashion retailers tried to market the winter goods with appropriate discounts, says Jens Ristedt. “If stocks are too high, this automatically leads to discount and price wars.” They were clearly felt even before the lockdown. Above all, the situation is difficult in the segments that make up to a quarter of annual sales at Christmas: cosmetics, jewelry, toys. “That’s bitter. It then moves to the online area. “
Overall, the German Retail Association (HDE) is assuming a sales loss of 14 percent for stationary retail in the Christmas business. The footfall in the city centers in November was partly halved, as measured by the Hystreet company, based on 45 locations nationwide. In the summer, on the other hand, they were at times almost over 80 percent.
Customers also returned to the waterfront more strongly over the summer – until the number of infections rose and there were new restrictions. In the Christmas business, the frequency has decreased by around 40 percent. “This is of course a very big challenge for our tenants,” says Waterfront Center Manager Kirsten Jackenkroll, referring to the loss of sales. So far there have only been isolated insolvencies – mostly chain stores that are active nationwide. “We hope it stays that way,” says the manager. But if the situation remains so difficult, one must expect more bankruptcies.
Center manager ECE, who is also behind the waterfront, has reacted and wants to relieve retailers and restaurateurs. Tenants who are currently not allowed to open should pay half of the basic rent for the period of closure. “This also applies to possible further lockdowns in 2021,” announced ECE. At the moment there are still discussions with the respective investors and banks. ECE boss Alexander Otto said that the lockdown before Christmas was the “absolute worst case for all dealers” and threatened many livelihoods.
Fear for existence
There are not problems everywhere. Corona split trade. The food trade developed well, the garden, leisure and living segments flourished. And online trading: The HDE expects an increase of almost a third to almost 20 billion euros in November and December. In the fashion trade, on the other hand, almost three quarters fear for their existence, according to the survey.
Dodenhof expanded its digital offers in the spring lockdown. The year was one of the most challenging in the company’s history, says owner Ralph Dodenhof, although it survived better than initially feared.
“However, the renewed closure also hit us with full force – and that in the most important weeks of the year and with the warehouses still very full.” .