German retail fears thousands of closures

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With an extension of Germany's lockdown past January 10 almost certain, the retail industry is worried that keeping shops closed could spell the end for tens of thousands of businesses.

"The situation is really very serious," said Stefan Genth, managing director of the German Retail Federation (HDE), who added that retailers feel like they've been forgotten during the pandemic.

In a letter that was sent to Chancellor Angela Merkel over the weekend, the HDE called for some kind of perspective and targeted and effective aid for stores affected by the closures.

Up to 50,000 shops with a combined total of more than 250,000 employees are at risk of closing if the country's lockdown is extended, according to the association.

"Finance Minister Olaf Scholz always announces billions in aid, but in fact, that help is not being paid out because the hurdles for access are too high," Genth said.

For the HDE, the primary goal must be to open the shops as soon as health authorities say it's OK to do so - and then keep them open.

"We can't just swing from one lockdown to the next," said Genth.

The head of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), Marcel Fratzscher, foresees severe repercussions with an extended lockdown.

"The longer it lasts, the more companies will reach the limits of their possibilities, the more will go bankrupt," he told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.

"The question now is not whether a wave of insolvencies will come, but when."

He added that there was also the threat of increased unemployment.

German leaders are expected to decide to continue the lockdown past January 10 on Tuesday, although for how much longer is still uncertain.