Omikron: Retailers fear for city centers

Status: December 26, 2021 1:32 p.m.

Retailers are concerned about the very contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus: The German trade association fears that fewer people will come to city centers again if the incidences rise.

The spread of the particularly contagious Corona variant Omikron could deal another blow to retailers in German city centers – this is feared by the German Retail Association (HDE).

“If the incidence figures soar, fewer people will probably come to the city centers again,” said the managing director of the German Trade Association (HDE) Stefan Genth, the dpa news agency. Many vaccinated and convalescent people who could actually go shopping would probably think twice about going to the pedestrian zones.

Warning of a new lockdown

Genth warned strongly of a new lockdown in retail to combat the pandemic: “To say we are going to close the shops now and with that we have Omikron under control, that would be absolutely wrong.” The hygiene concepts of the trade and the requirement to wear a mask when shopping continue to offer very good protection against infection.

In a trend survey conducted by the HDE, around 50 percent of the non-grocery retailers surveyed stated that they saw their existence threatened by the current access restrictions, said Genth. The introduction of 2G led to an average of over 40 percent drop in visitor numbers and a third less sales in the affected retail sector.

Medium-sized trade “dies quietly”

Even today, more and more shops are empty. “Small and medium-sized retail businesses in particular are dying quietly. They do not file for bankruptcy, but simply wind up the company,” said Genth. “Everyone sees that in their own city shops are suddenly disappearing. It will be difficult to close the gaps again.”

With a view to the days after Christmas, however, the HDE managing director was cautiously optimistic. “We hope that people will bring vouchers and gifts of money into the shops and we assume that the number of visitors in the city centers will be quite decent. But that will probably be a long way from the pre-crisis level in 2019,” he said.

Hope for 2022

Genth also looks to the year 2022 with mixed feelings. Nobody can say how the corona crisis will develop, he said. A prognosis is hardly possible. “But people want to treat themselves to something. And there is often enough money there. That’s why I believe that retailers have a good chance in 2022.”

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