ROUNDUP: Better mood among SMEs – foreign trade worried about Omikron

STUTTGART (dpa-AFX) – The medium-sized economy in Germany is looking to the future more confidently than it was about a year ago. This was the result of a representative survey of around 800 companies in November and December, as the consulting company EY in Stuttgart announced. A good every second medium-sized company is now counting on the fact that their business situation will improve in the coming months. Around every third company wants to create new jobs.

Companies are less concerned about the corona pandemic and its consequences than about the shortage of skilled workers, as the survey showed. 67 percent of the companies describe this bottleneck as a danger, 13 percentage points more than in the previous survey around a year ago. There are also concerns about high raw material prices, possible hacker attacks and the soaring energy prices. Only behind that is the fear that the corona pandemic could worsen.

EY’s so-called SME Barometer also showed that most companies do good business regardless of the Corona crisis. However, there are also downsides. The retail trade is suffering from the corona restrictions. The automotive industry is affected by the shortage in semiconductors. However, there is now a lot to be said for a noticeable economic upturn, said EY partner Michael Marbler. At the same time, he restricted that the pandemic was not over yet and that there were “always nasty surprises” in store.

In contrast to this, German wholesalers and foreign trade expect the German economy to experience a prolonged period of weakness with a view to the expanding Omikron variant. “The Omikron variant enforces worldwide contact restrictions – and that will exacerbate the already known supply chain problems again,” said Foreign Trade President Dirk Jandura of the “Rheinische Post” (Monday). “I fear that we will have to prepare for some more months of delivery problems, some of which are considerable,” said the head of the Federal Association of Wholesale, Foreign Trade and Services (BGA). This applies to semiconductors and building materials such as wood or metal parts. “If Omikron spreads at breakneck speed, as the health experts predict, it cannot remain without noticeable consequences for the economy.”

The bottlenecks were also noticeable in German exports: “The order books are still full, but we cannot deliver because we cannot get the preliminary products, such as semiconductors,” said Jandura. The industry has lowered its sales forecast for 2022. “In 2021 we recorded an increase in sales of around eight percent, due to the price increases, three percent of this remains in real terms. For 2022 we are only forecasting sales growth of 5.5 percent compared to the previous year. The real increase should also be three percent, but that will depend on the price development

– and how much Corona is still affecting trade worldwide

“said Jandura.

The German Trade Association (HDE) also fears that the spread of the Omikron variant will deal another blow to retailers in German city centers. “If the incidence figures soar, fewer people will probably come to the city centers again,” said the general manager of the German Trade Association (HDE) Stefan Genth.

Nonetheless, Genth warned emphatically of a new lockdown in retail to combat the pandemic: “To say that we are going to close the stores now and 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. Genth pointed out that in a trend survey conducted by the HDE, around 50 percent of the non-grocery retailers surveyed stated that they saw their very existence endangered by the continuation of the current access restrictions. 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.

With a view to the days after Christmas, however, the industry insider was subduedly optimistic. “We hope that people will bring vouchers and gifts of money into the shops and we are already assuming 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.”

Genth also looks to the year 2022 with mixed feelings. Nobody can say how the pandemic 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.” / cb / rea / red / DP / he

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