German economics minister peter altmaier wants to prevent bankruptcies of smaller stores in inner cities in the corona crisis. "We must develop concepts to revitalize the inner cities", said the CDU politician to the deutsche presse-agentur. "We want to prevent the death of shops in city centers." he is focusing above all on digitization to strengthen individual retailers and make shopping and spending time in the city centers more attractive for customers.
"It’s not so much a matter of handing out more and more money, but of making the city centers more attractive", said altmaier, referring to calls to ie consumer vouchers. The reduction in value-added tax by the end of the year is having an effect, according to his observations, and is contributing to the fact that above all investments in high-value consumer goods are being brought forward.
City as "experience"
Since the corona pandemic, many more transactions have been made online, altmaier said. He also wants smaller shops to participate more in this trend: "we need to help downtown shopkeepers digitize their customer relationships in a way that benefits fashion stores and shoe stores as well", he said. "For example, if a customer wants to order a branded shirt online, they should not necessarily have to do so from the manufacturer, but should have the option to buy online at the same price from the retailer of their choice."
He said it was also important to develop district concepts using digital offerings that, for example, led to the city being seen by people on weekends as a "experience space" perceived, he said. This would also open up new opportunities for the catering industry.
Altmaier announced that he would invite the parties involved to a table in early september, "um uber die wirtschaftlichen chancen von digitalisierung fur innenstadte, fur einzelhandler, fur die gastronomie zu sprechen". Der bund musse bereit sein, "notwendige mabnahmen gemeinsam mit kommunen und landern noch starker zu unterstutzen".
Tote hose in innenstadten
The president of the HDE trade association, josef sanktjohanser, had declared that the corona crisis would probably result in a loss of sales of 40 billion euros for retail companies outside the food trade. This could be 50.000 locations in germany from going out of business: "if the first wave of the pandemic caused such dramatic consequences in the trade, I didn’t like to imagine a second one", he said. Many traders had no chance to escape insolvency in case of renewed restrictions or even a second lockdown phase.
FDP parliamentary group vice-chairman michael theurer criticized that the federal government had prevented fiber optics and fast mobile internet from being available across the board. "Where there is no fast internet, running parallel online stores for traders is not a trivial task either", he said. Regional trading platforms are conceivable. The economic policy spokeswoman for the bundestag’s green party, katharina droge, said the VAT cut would roughly benefit online retailers. Instead, buy-on-premise vouchers had been able to support local commerce. The greens wanted a 500 million euro fund to support local infrastructure.