German Retailers Seek Full Reopening From May 4

April 28, 2020 Updated: April 28, 2020

German retailers sought on April 28 to persuade the government to let all stores operate normally from May 4, saying customers had not stormed back into the smaller shops that were allowed to reopen last week and were behaving prudently.

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

The national retailers association (HDE) has criticised the decision to only allow smaller stores to open, calling the move unfair for bigger chains, confusing for customers and saying both large and small shops were capable of respecting the rules.

A zoo employee
A zoo employee wearing a face shield scans the entry tickets on a mobile phone in Berlin’s Zoo as it partially reopens for the public amid the Covid-19 pandemic, in Berlin, Germany, on April 28, 2020. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP via Getty Images)
A boutique shopkeeper
A boutique shopkeeper Xana Yva Zepplin puts on a protective mask to her daughter as she prepares to open her “Rau Berlin” store for the first time since March during the COVID-19 pandemic in Berlin, Germany, on April 22, 2020. (Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

“The reopening of stores with up to 800 square metres of sales area has been very responsible throughout,” HDE Chief Executive Stefan Genth said in a statement.

“There was no rush of customers to the stores, the customers are behaving calmly and risk-consciously.”

Germany’s lockdown took effect on March 17 and the government says social distancing rules will remain in force until at least May 3.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she is worried that Germans are relaxing their social distancing efforts already and is resisting pressure from some regional states to press ahead with a further easing of restrictions.

The HDE called for nationwide rules instead of different regulations in different parts of the country, including on the issue of whether customers must wear face masks while shopping, adding that it should not be up to stores to uphold those rules.

“Retailers are not a substitute police force. The enforcement of the mask obligation is up to the state,” Genth said.

By Emma Thomasson