The consequences of the coronavirus epidemic are devastating for the stationary retail sector. Many are afraid for their existence and demand clear announcements, measures and help from politicians and government. We have asked (online) retailers throughout Germany what fears they are currently facing and what considerations they need to make.

 


Public life in Germany is currently being massively restricted due to the coronavirus. What does this mean for you as a retailer? What problems are you facing now and in the future?

Kerstin Görling, owner, Hayashi/Frankfurt:
“My existence is threatened. Since Wednesday my store Hayashi in Frankfurt is closed. My costs continue to run: rent, employees, high inventory levels, which are now actually in peak season. Even online sales are frozen at the moment, of course, because luxury fashion is the last thing people think about. With the closure of the stores, the basis for my business is no longer there. That's why the retail sector now needs quick government aid, otherwise there will be hardly anything left after this crisis.”
Kerstin Görling
Photo: Kerstin Görling
Kerstin Görling
Stephan Kalbfell, owner, Ave/Stuttgart:
“First and foremost, the frequency has gone to zero and will of course not immediately return to normal in the future, it must now be as quickly as possible a calm, clarity and structure in our lives, so that we can get the negative thoughts, fears and worries about the future out of our heads. There must be light at the end of the tunnel, there must be joy in life again.”
Stephan Kalbfell
Photo: Ave
Stephan Kalbfell
Ellen Wigner, Erlebe Wigner, Zirndorf:
“At the moment we have only one problem and that is to survive the closure in business at all. We had to lay off 10 very good employees. They were either still on probation or we were unable to extend their contracts. If we manage to get through this period, the next big challenge is to resume business operations at the high service level. After all, there are 10 employees missing in crucial areas. The behavior of the society will change in many areas, to what extent it is not yet possible to foresee.”
Ellen Wigner
Photo: Wigner
Ellen Wigner
Raimar Brad, co-owner, Bube & König/Nuremberg
“We are already a little bit afraid of the future, because we don't know how to go on. Two to three weeks are bridgeable but afterwards?”
Raimar Bradt
Photo: Bube & König
Raimar Bradt
Linda Hübner, corporate communication, Zalando
“The spread of the coronavirus in Europe and the measures taken by European governments in this context change the circumstances in which we work on a daily basis. Until curfews were imposed in several countries, we have not seen any major impact on business. Since the restrictions on public life, we have noticed negative effects in the form of lower demand in the affected areas. Naturally, we are closely monitoring current developments. We are focused on protecting the health of our employees on the one hand and on ensuring the continuation of our business on the other. We are taking decisive measures in all areas to reduce the impact on the company. We support the political measures taken so far. We also welcome the fact that the EU has so far kept its internal borders open for the movement of goods and commuters across the border. The same applies to the maintenance of basic postal and parcel delivery services. These steps will be crucial in cushioning the economic impact during the crisis.”


Sabine Falkenberg, owner, Falkenberg concept store, Munich
“We have closed the business since 17.03.2020. As a stationary company, we live from the daily consultation with the customers on site and this is also part of my concept. But I think it is essential to contain the corona crisis. If we do not keep social contacts to an absolute minimum, we will feel the effects badly. On this issue, I fully agree with the experts and scientists who are familiar with the subject and who, in my opinion, are the ones who can best assess the prospects.”
Sabine Falkenberg
Photo: Falkenberg
Sabine Falkenberg
Lena Terlutter, Boutique Belgique, Cologne
"Our store was one of the first to close. We wanted to protect the employees but also the customers and set a positive example. We don't have an online store or other distribution channels for Boutique Belgique. I just want everyone to be sensible and stay at home right now so that we can go back to normal in a few weeks. I am positive and know that our customers have full understanding of the situation."
Lena Terlutter
Photo: Lena Terlutter
Lena Terlutter

Are there any other distribution channels you could think of? Or other options that are on your mind?

Kerstin Görling, owner, Hayashi/Frankfurt:
“I am now starting my own online shop, or will I become a ‘subtenant’ in the online store Uebervart, my husband's store. I will follow and make my assortment here. Otherwise I can be reached by my customers via Farfetch. But this also presents me with a lot of challenges, as there are orders from China that are not accepted by the shipping companies at the moment. In addition, with a closed store, picking up and shipping is quite strenuous. I also use social media like Instagram and Facebook to present products through stories and my feed. But at the moment I'm observing a flood of stationary stores that are desperately trying to sell through Instagram and Stories. This is overwhelming and confusing for the customer: How do I order? By email, phone call or video call? I am now betting on showing my assortment in the online shop as soon as possible. This gives the customer the necessary comfort and peace of mind.”


Stephan Kalbfell, owner, Ave/Stuttgart:
“We are active on all channels: Instagram, Facebook, NL and also via mobile/WhatsApp–we send or deliver goods personally. We do everything to stay in contact with our customers.”


Ellen Wigner, Erlebe Wigner, Zirndorf:
“Since we do not sell articles of daily use, online trading does not make sense for us. Because even online articles of daily use are now in demand and not primarily fashion and shoes.”


Raimar Brad, co-owner, Bube & König/Nuremberg
“We are trying to sell through Insta and Facebook and we have already had one or two sales through these channels at a day. We want to keep our customers up to date, maybe we will be able to continue after the crisis.”

Sabine Falkenberg, owner, Falkenberg concept store, Munich
“We don't have a classic online store, but I'm thinking about bringing the goods to the customers through our own service.”

Lena Terlutter, Boutique Belgique, Cologne
"Of course, topics like online sales are on your mind, but basically it is not my profession and I do not want to make decisions out of necessity. If we were to go online, it would be with a new concept and out of conviction but not because of Corona. Depending on how long it takes, you could offer Facetime Shopping appointments or something similar. I still have a little time to think about it."


What about ordered goods? Are there any problems?

Kerstin Görling, owner, Hayashi/Frankfurt:
“In any case, if no customers can come into the store, I cannot accept any goods. It is shocking and horrible, because I know what that means for all brands. But we are all in the same boat at the moment. Now it is time to stick together and find accommodating solutions that are acceptable to both of us. Selfishly I find brands that start to reduce their collection from now on. This completely devalues the merchandise! We have to keep prices stable to get through this crisis. Premature discounts are of no use at all, have never been of any use.”


Stephan Kalbfell, owner, Ave/Stuttgart:
“The companies stand by one and there is a lot of communication and thinking and acting about all possible solutions.”


Ellen Wigner, Erlebe Wigner, Zirndorf:
“Of course there are problems. Some companies have accepted cancellations or, like Street One, a delivery stop, but most of the goods are there and now would have been peak sales time. Our customer brochure, which would have reached the customers this week, we did not send out, but the goods shown in it are in the house.”

 
Sabine Falkenberg, owner, Falkenberg concept store, Munich
“Not so far - we have a very wide range of products, but the goods are still arriving.”

 
Lena Terlutter, Boutique Belgique, Cologne
"Thank God, most of the Spring/Summer collection has already arrived and is in our central warehouse.
Some packages are still in the pipeline and cannot be delivered at the moment. In general, we take a relaxed view, the goods don't go bad and our customers are incredibly loyal. Of course we are more cautious about new labels and order dates. Before new stuff is written, we want to wait and see how the situation develops."

What is your biggest concern?

Kerstin Görling, owner, Hayashi/Frankfurt:
“Nothing will ever be the same again. What matters now is the duration of this crisis. My biggest worry is that we just won't make it. I appeal to the state: we cannot use loans; we need state aid, fast money without interest and repayment that can protect us from a huge wave of bankruptcies. Beauty must not be allowed to perish, colorful things must not die.”


Stephan Kalbfell, owner, Ave/Stuttgart:
“To survive the whole thing financially! How much we can be supported by the state, landlords and the companies.”


Ellen Wigner, Erlebe Wigner, Zirndorf:
“Our biggest concern is that we will not survive the closure financially and every day counts here.”


Raimar Brad, co-owner, Bube & König/Nuremberg
“I'm afraid that what we have built up will be destroyed. But we'll see, we won't let it get us down. It will be a hard time for everyone. I hope that it will end well for all of us.”


Sabine Falkenberg, owner, Falkenberg concept store, Munich
“I hope that we can master this time of greatest challenges together with prudence and solidarity. It is so unreal, nature is awakening outside and the sun is shining so wonderfully, but the opposite is true for us humans - social distance. My greatest hope is that people will implement the experts' recommendations more quickly. All the better we can overcome the crisis. Besides the economic considerations, this is also my greatest concern: will the people here be able to adapt sustainably if necessary?”


Lena Terlutter, Boutique Belgique, Cologne
"Economically, I have few worries but rather trust in the concessions of the government, which has promised to support companies like ours. This situation should make all future entrepreneurs & founders once again aware that we as self-employed people are more than ever dependent on our reserves."




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