German retailers set for worst downturn since World War Two

FILE PHOTO: People with protective masks walk inside a shopping mall, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Hanau, Germany, April 20, 2020. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

BERLIN (Reuters) - German non-food retailers will see sales drop by around 22% this year if there is no second wave of coronavirus infections, putting the sector on track for its worst downturn since World War Two, the HDE association said on Wednesday.

Including food, retail sales will fall by 4% year-on-year, the HDE retail body said, highlighting the diverging fortunes of food stores - which stayed open during more than five weeks of lockdown imposed to contain the coronavirus - and non-food retailers that temporarily closed.

The pandemic has drastically changed consumer habits as many, fearful of catching the virus, prefer to buy online rather than venture out to stores.

The HDE said that during March, April and May, expenditure per shopping trip at stationary retailers fell by 10% while it rose by 20% online.

This is especially problematic for small retailers who often lack the technology to sell online, it said.

“The coronavirus crisis will preoccupy the retail sector for years to come,” said HDE Managing Director Stefan Genth. “Many consumers have changed their shopping habits and retailers need to adapt.”

Reporting by Joseph Nasr and Reinhard Becker; Editing by Michelle Martin