Bonn · Starting on Saturday, the 2G rule for shopping in NRW will be eliminated. Bonn’s retailers and businesses are breathing a sigh of relief; the pandemic has meant a big loss in sales for them. Some wish that the city would also lift the mask mandate in pedestrian zones.
It’s not the recent stormy weather that has caused the city center of Bonn to appear empty. For months, things have not been going particularly well for retailers in the city center. But on Saturday, some of the Covid-related restrictions in North Rhine-Westphalia will be eased. From then on, the 2G rule for stores will no longer apply. Those who are not vaccinated or recovered will also be granted access again, and the checks on immunity status will no longer be carried out. Medical masks (surgical masks) must be worn.
Timm Nottelmann, liquor dealer from "vomFASS", speaks of a "catastrophic" situation in the city center. "January and February are already bad months anyway, but these are especially hard," he reports. He is referring to the drop in sales, which have plummeted even more with the pandemic this winter. Nottelmann, because he sells groceries, is exempt from the 2G regulation.
2G checks require considerable effort
In his view, however, he suffered most from the outdoor mask requirement: "Since it became clear in mid-November that masks had to be worn at the Christmas market, fewer and fewer customers have come to town." This trend has continued, he says. Nottelmann believes that many drive to surrounding cities where masks are not required for shoppers. A colleague agrees with him.
For Nicole Petasch from the "Room Nine" concept store on Sterntorstrasse, the easing of restrictions means relief. "We are looking forward to a bit more normality," she says. Customers from all over Germany travel to Bonn to buy clothes or jewelry from her. Of those, she says, very few were unvaccinated, which is why there has not been an extreme shortfall of customers for her.
But the checks, which were mandatory until about two weeks ago, created extra work for the salespeople. "First and foremost, we are responsible for advice and sales, and the checks have meant significantly more work," Petasch said. They could not have afforded external staff for the checks.
Clothing salesman: Bonn's city center is as empty as he has ever seen it
Hamed Nabi from the clothing store "Replay" is annoyed by the restrictions: "I've been working in retail in Bonn for 25 years. There has never been so little life in the city center as there is at the moment. From Saturday morning on, it's dead here," he says. Sales declines are “a given" - even more so than usual during the pandemic. He wants to see the elimination of masks in general. It is exhausting to wear them all day.
But businesses that were not directly affected by 2G also experienced less customer traffic. Iris Hippler from “Klar Seifen” on the Marktplatz confirms this. She says that December business was normal, but fewer people came by and stumbled upon the store while strolling through the city center. How costly the 2G checks are for the stores depends on the staff available. Large stores such as “Intersport” in the city center complain about having to make a staff member available for the checks, which means they are not available for sales. Usually, however, there are enough other staff
Trade associations sound the alarm: customer frequency in Hardtberg fell by 50 percent
Bonn's retailers have reacted differently to the 2G restrictions, says Maike Reinhardt of City Marketing Bonn. Some hired external staff to perform checks, some stores hired security personnel. Others could not afford to do so. Despite the extra burden, Bonn's sales personnel did not seem overwhelmed. And yet a positive signal was sorely needed right now. In many places, sales had slumped.
Businesses in the Hardtberg area have noticed "up to 50 percent fewer customers", reports Gisbert Weber of the Hardtberg business and trade association. "In extreme phases of the pandemic, there was zero percent customer frequency." Werner Koch, chairman of the Beuel trade association, draws a similarly bleak picture. He speaks of average sales losses of 30 percent in the Beuel area. If you then hire additional staff for controls, this calculation is rather very optimistic, he says. "In Beuel, there are stores where two salespeople work. If one is busy and the other has to go to the bathroom, should they close because no one can do the checks?" Koch believes the relaxations are an important signal at the right time. "It's a huge relief. Hopefully, more customers will come again now.”
Original text: Simun Sustic / Translation: Carol Kloeppel