Retail: shopping streets in crisis: the shops are dying

Berlin (dpa) - Closed shop doors, taped shop windows and dismantled neon signs: In more and more shopping streets in Germany, the dying of shops is leaving unmistakable traces.

Retail: shopping streets in crisis: the shops are dying

Berlin (dpa) - Closed shop doors, taped shop windows and dismantled neon signs: In more and more shopping streets in Germany, the dying of shops is leaving unmistakable traces. And the future prospects are also rather bleak.

This year alone, according to a forecast by the German Retail Association (HDE), around 9,000 more shops will be closed, often because people's declining purchasing power and rising costs make it unattractive to continue. According to the HDE, there are still 311,000 shops left nationwide - apart from the smallest businesses. For comparison: in 2015 it was almost 373,000.

"In view of the figures from the last few years, all the alarm bells must be ringing in all inner cities and in politics. Because without successful retail, the city centers have hardly any future prospects," warned HDE President Alexander von Preen on Monday. "If trade dies, the city dies."

Corona pandemic intensified trend

The fact is: the number of shops in Germany has been shrinking for some time. The decline was particularly sharp in the years 2020 to 2022, which were shaped by the corona pandemic, when the number of shops per year fell by 11,000. But even in the pre-crisis years from 2015 to 2019, an average of 5,000 shops closed every year.

Above all, the branch closures of well-known chains receive public attention: the planned closure of 47 Galeria-Karstadt-Kaufhof department stores, the liquidation of numerous branches of the shoe retail chain Görtz or the announced reduction of the branch network of the fashion chain Gerry Weber. However, according to the HDE, most of the closures are attributable to smaller specialist retailers - fashion boutiques, shoe shops and bakeries.

Last but not least, online trading has changed the basis of business in recent years. During the Corona crisis, even more customers got used to shopping online.

Big chains are closing branches

HDE General Manager Stefan Genth recently said that there are many medium-sized retailers who run their boutiques, shoe shops, sports shops or perfumeries without a ado. At the same time, many large chains thinned out their branch networks. "You may not see that in 1A locations yet, but you see it in the districts of large cities, and you see it above all in small and medium-sized towns and communities."

A number of business models, which until recently seemed hip and future-oriented, are suddenly feeling headwind in view of the falling purchasing power of many people. "Some organic shops and farm shops are in an existential crisis," said retail expert Stephan Rüschen from the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW) in Heilbronn. Many unpackaged shops also had to close.

In view of the vacancies in many cities, the HDE is pushing for greater commitment from the municipalities. He wants a start-up offensive to stop the shops dying. "Unbureaucratic and fast approval processes for conversions and rededications must be at the top of the list of priorities," said von Preen. New settlements and start-ups need optimal conditions.

Close gaps quickly

The use of settlement managers in the municipalities could play an important role in this. It is in everyone's interest to close the gaps in the city centers as quickly as possible. Otherwise there is a risk of a chain reaction with even more vacancies and a downward spiral, said von Preen.

At the end of last year, a survey of almost 69,000 people in 111 inner cities by the Institute for Retail Research (IFH) showed that the attractiveness of many inner cities is no longer the best. The answers to the question: "How likely is it that you would recommend this city center to friends or acquaintances" were alarming. In around every second city, the majority would not recommend the city center. Only one in four cities felt that visitors were so attractive that they would recommend a visit to friends. "The fact is that the majority of German inner cities have more critics than convinced fans," said IFH Managing Director Boris Hedde afterwards.

According to Rolf Pangels, the General Manager of the Textile Footwear Leather Goods Trade Association (BTE), there is little time left to change anything: "If the planning policy does not finally take countermeasures clearly and unambiguously, the further decline of the city centers will be unstoppable."