On the Black Friday negotiation day, the shopping streets in some German cities were well filled: in Bielefeld, for example, pedestrians in the city center became very close in some places and stopped following the rules of distance. A spokesman for the Bielefeld city administration said this on Friday.
Similar situations could be observed on Black Friday in Cologne. In front of the shops in the city center, customers were waiting right next to each other in queues, and the public order office had to intervene so that passers-by could stay away and prevent corona virus infections.
In the “Rheincenter” shopping center in Cologne, the management even imposed an entry ban due to the large number of visitors in order to avoid chaos. Since the beginning of the partial shutdown, there were apparently not so many people in an enclosed space in the center of Cologne.
The first weekend of Advent could be a harbinger of what was happening in the inner cities in the weeks before Christmas. Because when millions of Germans start buying gifts in bulk soon before Christmas, the question arises: Can retailers sufficiently prevent crowds and ensure that customers follow Corona’s rules?
Stefan Genth, CEO of the German Retail Association (HDE), responded to Tagesspiegel’s request on Monday: “The retail sector has proven in the last few months that its hygiene concepts work.” HDE is a leading association for German retailers. Shopping is safe even during a pandemic. “We expect many customers to buy gifts online during the Christmas holidays,” Genth said.
Eighth: “Trade cannot play substitute police”
With city retailers having fewer and fewer customers in recent weeks, large gatherings can be avoided. The HDE also “warned of long queues against some deals” before federal and state governments tightened square footage regulations last week. In the future, there will be only one customer with a retail space of 800 square meters or more per 20 square meters.
Customers with mouth and nose protection walk past shops in a department store in Berlin. Photo: REUTERS / Fabrizio Bensch
This regulation is one of many more stringent corona measures agreed by government leaders to curb the pandemic. Asked if companies could also maintain a minimum distance between customers, HDE CEO Genth said: “In general, we find that customers follow the rules very well.”
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Many retail companies have hired additional employees to ensure compliance with the corona rules. “However, the retail sector cannot function as a substitute police force.” This would overwhelm retailers in the city center who are suffering from a “massive drop in sales.” “Often there is simply no more money to rent security services.”
Retail promotes Sunday shopping
In enforcing the corona rules, Genth points to the responsibilities of public order and police. According to Genth, it would also “make sense to allow Sunday openings to settle the Christmas shop.”
Long queues could soon form in front of Berlin’s KaDeWe, as the department store can only accept less than 3,000 customers under the stricter sales area of 60,000 square meters. Timo Weber, KaDeWe’s manager, has so far been satisfied with customers who “follow the rules of distance and hygiene in a disciplined manner.”
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At Christmas time and at the turn of the year, the hostesses should show customers where to line up at the delicatessen counter – at that time, the selection of delicacies is traditionally quite full.
Around Christmas and New Year, the sixth gourmet floor of KaDeWe in Berlin can fill up quickly.
The corona crisis is definitely dampening the mood to shop before Christmas, as shown by the annual representative survey by Berliner Sparkasse: Almost every third person wants to spend less money on Christmas presents than in the previous year. In addition, according to figures, not a third of them want to get their gifts “mostly or exclusively” in stationary retail this year, while 43 percent “mainly” shop online.
For larger stores, there are more mask requirements and fewer square meters
Due to the growing number of infections, the federal and state governments agreed last week on, among other things, stricter measures for retailers: For example, the mask requirement will also apply in front of shops and car parks in the future.
According to the prime ministers, Christmas shopping should take place during the week. In addition, in stores with a total retail area of 800 square meters, there may be no more than one customer per 20 square meters of sales area. For smaller stores, this rule still applies: in the store can be one customer per 10 square meters of sales area.
Stores should organize appropriate entry management. We’ll see if the planned regulations during Christmas shops make it possible to avoid crowds.