Corona loophole collection station: Retailers use lockdown gaps


Many retail stores are trying to soften the currently stricter corona measures for themselves. Wherever the regulations allow, they use their actually closed shops as pick-up points for goods ordered online or by telephone.
The Douglas perfumery chain also announced that it not only offered the pick-up service, but also wanted to keep some branches open. After all, the inventory allows to be called a drugstore, it said. The trade union Ver.di in Hesse spoke of a “disreputable undermining of the lockdown”.

However, DIY stores or bookstores, department stores or electronics stores are also looking for loopholes: Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof, for example, promises »Christmas presents until the end«. Customers can reserve goods online at short notice and then receive them contactlessly at the pick-up stations in the branches.

The electronics chains Media Markt and Saturn currently use their branches as pick-up stations. A company spokesman reported that there was a similar offer in the first lockdown and that customers were happy to use. The decoration article specialist Butlers offers something similar.

Many booksellers, from the industry giant Thalia to the bookstore next door, are also trying to outsmart the economic consequences of the lockdown with pick-up offers. “Pick-up offers are particularly important for small bookstores,” says Thomas Koch from the German Book Trade Association. They benefit from close contact with their regular customers.

Fashion stores benefit little

Hardware store chains such as Obi, Bauhaus or Hornbach offer customers the opportunity to reserve the materials and products they need online and then pick them up in the branches. Trade associations had fought for this collection solution, even if, according to industry assessments, a number of consumers could still have used the last two days of sales before the tough shutdown to buy their last gifts.

According to the textile trade association (BTE), the pick-up offers referred to in the technical jargon Click & Collect are currently less common in the fashion industry. There are some medium-sized fashion stores that offer this service, said BTE spokesman Axel Augustin. “But we are a long way from saving the season.” Often it is not worth keeping the store open. In view of the problem of fit, fashion is nowhere near as suitable as books or electronics.
Germany’s largest shoe retailer Deichmann offers its customers the opportunity to pick up shoes ordered online in the branches during normal times. But in the shutdown, the company stopped the offer. The branches are closed, said a spokesman.

Pick-up service prohibited in many federal states

There is one catch anyway: picking up is allowed in most federal states, but by no means in all federal states. According to a list by the e-commerce association bevh, Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Saxony generally prohibit collection in their Corona regulations. In Thuringia, it is only allowed for bookstores.

For retailers, Click & Collect is an attempt to reduce the economic damage caused by the lockdown. “It may not do the retailers much, but a little is better than nothing,” says the retail expert Gerrit Heinemann from the Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences.

For him, one thing is certain: “Above all, Click & Collect will help the big retailers, not the small ones who need it most.” The prerequisite for this is a functioning electronic merchandise management system that can reliably tell the customer whether a Item is still in stock in the store or not. But many small dealers would not have that. And if there are errors in the ordering process, customer problems are inevitable.

“For many small dealers it would make more sense if they would take orders by phone or fax and then deliver them themselves. Customers would appreciate this service very much, after all it saves them the trip and queuing, ”estimates Heinemann.
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