German retailers underwhelmed by first shopping Saturday of crisis

Still, German Retail Association painted a gloomy picture of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the industry

The first weekend shopping day of the pandemic was an underwhelming one in Germany on Saturday, capping the first week in which many shops were allowed to reopen following weeks of anti-coronavirus closures, dpa reports.

As has been the case throughout the week, city centres and high streets were much quieter than they would be under normal circumstances. But many shops chose to reopen nonetheless.

"The majority of businesses are open, many have used the opportunity," a statement from a retailers association in the northern state of Lower Saxony said.

Similar scenes were reported in other states, including Hesse in central Germany, where police said the situation was "more than manageable." Queues developed outside certain information technology stores in Berlin. However, many shops decided to stay closed in the capital. The famous Kurfuerstendamm shopping avenue was relatively empty.

In most of Germany's 16 states, shops with a surface area of up to 800 square metres, as well as car dealers, book and bicycle shops regardless of size, were allowed to reopen starting on Monday. But not all German states and cities are allowing shops to re-open on Monday – in the capital city Berlin, as well as Brandenburg, store owners will have to wait until Wednesday. Shops in the state of Thuringia will have to wait until Friday until restrictions there are lifted. The southern German state of Bavaria, meanwhile, has decided on a staggered re-opening of stores -  DIY stores and garden centers are opening first. 

There are also different interpretation of the 800-square-meter requirement: Lower Saxony, Hamburg, Rhineland Palatinate, Schleswig Holstein and Saarland are allowing larger stores to open, as long as they cordon-off the shop floor to meet the size requirement.  In Schleswig Holstein, Brandenburg and Lower Saxony there are also special regulations for shops contained within large shopping centers.

Hair salons will be next in line to resume business on 4 May. However, bars, restaurants, day care centers, theaters, and cinemas will stay closed until further notice. 

Yet, despite easing of the restrictions, the German Retail Association painted a gloomy picture of the impact the pandemic has had on the industry.

"Revenues lag far behind the previous year's figures," it said. "Despite opening up, only an average of 40% of the normal business volume is being reached."

The figure was based on a survey of 767 retailers nationwide.

More than 154,100 cases of the novel coronavirus have been detected in Germany so far, according to a dpa tally. At least 5,622 people have died.

Sweeping closures and social-distancing restrictions across the country have succeeded for now in preventing the exponential spread of the virus, with the so-called reproduction number hovering below one. This is the average number of people an infected individual passes the virus on to. On Friday, the government's Robert Koch Institute for disease control reported the figure at 0.9.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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