May 15, 2020 / 10:06 PM / 14 days ago

German cities threatened by coronavirus' retail blight: survey

BERLIN (Reuters) - One in 10 German retailers and 6% of wholesalers face possible insolvency from extended closures to curb the coronavirus outbreak, a survey found, despite moves in recent days to unwind social distancing measures.

The survey by the German Chambers of Commerce, published by the Rheinischer Post newspaper, highlights the dramatic impact of the crisis on the sector, and comes as cities consider drastic measures to maintain their infrastructure in the face of a retail wipe-out.

Earlier on Friday, German media reported that department store operator Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof would close up to 80 stores - almost half its outlets - across Germany. In response, an expert of the National Assembly of Cities described the operator as “systemically important” to the urban fabric.

“We have to save what we can,” Norbert Portz, infrastructure specialist at the Assembly, told Die Welt newspaper, warning that the loss of these anchor stores could seal the fate of pedestrian shopping areas across the country.

“We would be glad if management would sit down to discuss this with mayors and others in charge locally,” he said.

Though retailers in Germany have been hurt far less by the advance of online shopping than in other countries, the coronavirus crisis has heightened the sector’s woes.

According to the Chamber of Commerce survey, 40% of the 10,000 retailers and wholesalers surveyed had to cut back on planned investments for the year.

Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Richard Chang

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