What the relaxation of the corona rules means for retail

Closed branch of C&A

Many retailers do not understand the decisions made by politics.

(Foto: imago images/Nordphoto)

Düsseldorf After the Chancellor and the Prime Ministers had announced the circumstances under which trade could reopen, Willi Goebel broke the collar. “Unfortunately, the measures adopted today clearly show that our politicians act headlessly, without rational reasons and with little common sense,” wrote the head of the fashion chain Sinn in a letter to his employees on Wednesday evening.

“We will protest against these arbitrary measures from tomorrow,” he continues and calls on his employees: “Do the same. Call your mayor, your member of the state parliament, your union representative. “

Florian Gietl, CEO of MediaMarktSaturn, was somewhat more diplomatic in the choice of words, but no less appalled. His company’s stores have an average area of ​​more than 3,000 square meters.

“The decision that has now been made that shops with sales areas of up to 800 square meters will be allowed to reopen next Monday is difficult for us to understand and we consider it unsuitable not only from the point of view of health protection,” he says. It represents a “disproportionate disadvantage for larger retail spaces” and leads to a clear distortion of competition.

After the initial joy that the shops are allowed to reopen, the retail sector is increasingly bewildered about the details of the decisions. “This is bad news for many retailers,” says Kai Hudetz, managing director of the IFH retail research institute. “In my opinion, the restriction on the sales area does not do justice to the issue. That distorts the competition without need, ”confirms the trade expert.

Clarity and uniformity are required

Even the German Retail Association (HDE) sees no factual argument for gradually opening the shops. Managing Director Stefan Genth therefore appeals to politicians to reconsider the resolutions and adjust them accordingly. All in all, the downtown shopping area also suffers. As a result, customers are unsure which shops are open and which shops are closed. “We need rules that are fair to all retailers and that are transparent for companies and customers at first glance,” he demands.

The arbitrary limit of 800 square meters is evidently derived from the definition of “large-scale retail operations” in the Building Use Ordinance. There, in Section 11, the line is drawn at 1200 square meters, but the floor area is mentioned. The Federal Constitutional Court then specified in a 2005 ruling that this floor area generally corresponds to a sales area of ​​800 square meters.

But nobody in the industry understands what this size has to do with preventive healthcare in times of the Corona. Kik boss Patrick Zahn, for example, is “fundamentally relieved” because the branches of his textile discounter usually have less than 800 square meters. But he also says: “For me, this limitation of the surface is incomprehensible.”

That is why he is now demanding that there be clarity and uniformity, at least when it comes to implementation. “We hope that there will be a uniform procedure, at least in Germany,” says Zahn. If there are different regulations for almost every branch, for example with regard to hygiene measures, then this is difficult to implement for a nationwide retail chain.

But it is already foreseeable that politicians will not grant retailers this wish either. Thuringia’s Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow has already announced that shops will not be able to reopen until April 27th. He also wants to introduce additional restrictions, for example the limitation to one customer per 20 square meters.

Lower Saxony’s Prime Minister Stefan Weil, on the other hand, interprets the agreement much more loosely. He also wants to allow shops that have more than 800 square meters of retail space to open – if they block off part of the retail space and thus come below the limit.