German shoppers not rushing back as stores reopen


BERLIN (Reuters) – German consumers are counting their pennies rather than returning to shop in large numbers as stores gradually reopen after being locked down during the coronavirus crisis, the national retailers association said on Wednesday.

Stores of up to 800 square metres (8,600 square feet) were allowed to open again from Monday, along with car and bicycle dealers and bookstores, provided they adhere to strict social distancing and hygiene rules.

But the HDE association said the mood among shoppers remained very subdued due to concerns about jobs and finances. “Consumers are in a crisis mode, consumer sentiment is in the doldrums,” a spokesman said.

In some parts of Europe’s biggest economy, larger stores have also been allowed to open, such as furniture and homeware chain Ikea in the western state of North-Rhine Westphalia.

Elsewhere, large stores such as Ceconomy’s (CECG.DE) consumer electronics chains Media Markt and Saturn have cordoned off a smaller sales area to meet the 800-square-metre rule.

The HDE has criticised the decision to only allow smaller stores to open, calling the move confusing for customer and saying both large and small shops were capable of respecting the rules.

Germany’s lockdown took effect on March 17. The government says social distancing rules will remain in force until at least May 3 and aims to start re-opening schools the following day.