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Corona regulations : Businesses hugely frustrated at having to close again

Corona regulations : Businesses hugely frustrated at having to close again

Frustration and incomprehension: In many Bonn stores, shopping by appointment has gotten off to a good start. But now businesses are not only worried about surviving the pandemic, they are deeply frustrated because everything is expected to close again on Monday.

Businesses are not only worried about their survival as a result of the pandemic, there is now a great deal of frustration as well. This was apparent among many store owners in Bonn city center after the updated corona regulations became known. Most shopkeepers had just regained hope that they would be able to compensate for at least part of their sales losses of the past months with click&meet. GA surveyed business owners in the city and the shopping appointment system was apparently off to a good start. But now it’s suppose to come to an end on Monday.

For a couple weeks now, customers have been able to shop in person again using click&meet - a system that allows people to make a shopping appointment online and provide their contact information. "We have had quite a good experience with this system so far. We are really happy about it," says Erich Beyersdorff. The managing director of the Sinn fashion store on Münsterplatz says they have around 30 to 40 percent less sales than in normal times. In the lockdown before, when customers were only allowed to pick up their merchandise at the door after placing an order online, Sinn was only able to make a fraction of their normal revenue. Naturally, he sees that the incidence rate is rising again, but according to all the experts, retail is not the place with a high risk of contagion. "We have about 10,000 square meters of space and are allowed to let in a maximum of 235 customers. On top of that, we have strict hygiene requirements. Where, may I ask, is the danger there?" questions Beyersdorff. With the exception of Saturdays, the number of customers in the clothing store at any one time has always been under 200. This economic situation is "very bitter" for everyone, the managing director notes.

Christina Barton-van Dorp runs the specialty store "Van Dorp," one of the last owner-operated stores in Bonn's city center. "We are celebrating our 160th anniversary this year," she says. She, too, makes no secret of her great frustration at the renewed threat of retail store closures. "We were just about to make up some ground. This hurts us retailers all the more now, because even the Robert Koch Institute and also a study just published by the Technical University of Berlin have said retail trade is not where the infections are happening." Barton-van Dorp, who is a member of the board of the NRW Retail Association and president of the Federal Association of Culinary and Tableware, worries about his colleagues’ businesses surviving. She says she also knows from restaurateurs that they are at the end of their rope and that all reserves have been used up. “I am totally bewildered and dismayed," she says, "we must finally learn to live with the virus." She says it isn’t the time right now to arbitrarily declare Easter "rest days" but at the same time not keep up with vaccinations. "We as employers would also like to know what is meant by a day of rest," she said, referring to the fact that Maundy Thursday and Holy Saturday are now also to be considered "days of rest.” (She refers to the decision made by Chancellor Merkel to impose a tighter lockdown over Easter, a decision which she then quickly reversed.)

The owner of a shoe store, who does not want to read his name in the newspaper, is simply “angry.” "If you are honest and speak your mind, you quickly get a shitstorm." Click&meet went “very well", he says, especially with shoes it is important that customers are advised and can also try on the shoes. "Click&collekt is therefore very, very difficult for us." Like Christina Barton-van Dorp, he's annoyed that expert opinions on the risk of contagion in stores apparently didn't play a role with those in government. "I'm seriously worried about where this journey is going to take us," he says.

Click&meet doesn’t offer a "sustainable solution”

Claudia Bachhausen-Dewart, press spokeswoman for Thalia, expressed restrained optimism for the shopping scheme in light of the current situation: "Click&meet is a first step, but not a sustainable solution for us, because the personnel and operating costs are higher than the sales realized." A small consolation, she said, is that online business grew strongly during the lockdown. "But that doesn't come close to making up for the loss of sales in the brick-and-mortar businesses," she said. What's doing well in bookstores right now, she said, are "stories and novels that provide little escapes from everyday life, children's books and activities, games for the whole family.”

The Bonn/Rhein-Sieg Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) also reacted with incomprehension to the decisions made by state and federal government on Monday. "The decisions of the Chancellor and the heads of the states are not conducive to building up or expanding the confidence of the economy in a prudent pandemic policy. We must learn to deal with Covid-19 and cannot close things down every time an arbitrarily selected incidence rate is exceeded," said IHK President Stefan Hagen, who called for a strategy to reopen the economy instead of closing it down.

(Orig. text: Lisa Inhoffen, Thomas Kliemann; Translation: ck)