Improvising to survive the lockdown yo-yo. So many retailers in German city take appointments, use TikTok and alter services.

Germany is known for luxury cars, machine tools and other goods that have protected the overall economy from the worst effects of the pandemic. But Germany is also a nation of shopkeepers, small operations whose employees are also from the same family.

These businesses have been pushed to the brink of collapse by lockdowns, quarantines and other restrictions that often change from day to day. Vaccines are in short supply and intensive care units are filling up.

In the northern port city of Hamburg, retailers are improvising to try to survive. Theoodoa Vezo, the owner of a boutique that bears her name, took customers by appointments and changed her window displays of clothing and accessories much more often.

Yavl Chen, owner of a store that sells Manga comic books and graphic novels, set up a TikTok channel and ordered his employees to come up with content as a way of promoting online sales.

For many businesses, there has been no real option but to tough it out until lockdown ease, which in Germany may not be until the fall.

Edip Kucukoglu, a tailor, is still allowed to do alterations, but customers are staying away. Why spend money looking better, when you never leave home?

Federal and state governments have provided aid to many businesses. But policies were sometimes inconsistent. Giulia Christen, a fashion designer and owner of Pyrate-Style, a shop that sells custom apparel, said the government response had been excellent at first.

''You put in a request, and two weeks later the money was in your account,'' she said.

A few businesses have benefited from the pandemic. Dennis Jakob's butcher shop, which was founded by his grandfather in 1951 and where he has worked much of his life, has been busy supplying customers who were cooking for themselves and shopping closer home.

''There are many new faces, our customer base has grown,'' Mr. Jakob said.

Christian Moller, owner of Derpart Flug and Ferienreisen, a travel agency, said that sales are down more than 90 percent so far this year. Only when people are vaccinated, he said, will they feel confident and vacationing abroad.

Germans have a reputation for being organized, but the stereotype has not applied to the vaccine campaign. Fewer than a quarter of them had received their first vaccine doses by late April, compared with more than 40 percent in the United States and more than 60 percent in Britain.

Businesses that depend on weddings, funerals or other gatherings are in a similar situation. ''None of that is taking place at all,'' said Susane Jurgens, a florist at Blumenstube Diana Hittig. ''Celebrations, confirmations - we missed all that business in 2020.

Hair salons have been closed for much of the last year, but were allowed to reopen in early March, sooner than most other shops that involve personal contact.

The rush of customers in between lockdowns helped compensate for the periods that Petra Hartie was forced to close her shop. There was even a positive effect : People really appreciated their hairdressers. ''We were suddenly relevant to the system,'' Ms. Hartje said.

But keeping the business open hasn't been easy. ''In December, a customer was here on a Saturday. The following Tuesday she emailed me that she was sick with corona.,'' Ms. Hartje said. ''I had to quarantine for 10 days.''

While Internet retailers have boomed, online sales are not a real option for shops that depend on personal contact, like Josephine Bouquet's hat shop.

''I can't make anything if I can't do fittings, or measurements to or touch the customer,'' Ms. Bouquet said. ''Hats are too individual and too special.''

Apparel businesses are among the biggest economic victims of the pandemic. Nationwide, sales of items like clothing and shoes plunged by more than three-quarters in January from a year earlier, according to official figures. Nearly half of the retailers surveyed by the German Retail Association said they feared bankruptcy.

More than two-thirds of Ms. Bouquet's hat sales used to come from theater productions, which are at a stand still. ''That was the last straw,'' Ms. Bouquet said.

Ms. Bouquet's revenue fell by about half last year. While she will continue to make hats to order for theater customers in her atelier, she said, she closed the storefront permanently in February.

The World Students Society thanks authors Jack Ewing and Harley Austin and Paula Haase.


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!