Online shopping – horror with a click – opinion

One of the many puzzling characteristics of humans is that they have fallen in love with online shopping. That’s right, occasionally you need that very specific book from 1788 that the local dealer is guaranteed not to have. Occasionally the four cylinder head screws M 8 DIN 912 are missing, for which it is really not worth going to all hardware stores. But why do people think it is more convenient to order and pay for books and trousers and teapots with a click instead of buying them in the pedestrian zone?

Yes yes, it’s ok. There is no litany of house-to-house trucking or packaging waste, urban desertification or online dealers hating unions; is not the little educational advisor here.

It’s all about being amazed: that a Swiss online department store can announce that its sales have been “at Christmas level since the lockdown” and now expects a further increase of 50 percent. That Deutsche Post has already delivered more parcels than in the whole of last year.

A particularly lonely Christmas 2020 is expressly only desired for those who have the local dealer devotedly explain all their televisions to them and then order their device online. There should also be people who do not go into business because of Corona, but have a fondue set for their Christmas party at home by DHL and then send it back as a complaint.

Shopping with a click is surprising because it has four disadvantages compared to shopping in the city; but at least. The first: ordering the Obama book means having it a day later instead of immediately. Second disadvantage: if you see the shirt on display in the shop, you immediately know whether you like this Bordeaux red or not.

If so: try it on, pay, go home with it. Online customers, on the other hand, know the moment of the celebratory package opening – which is the second in which the anticipation is always felt like Markus Söder’s humility. It flies away.

Disadvantage 3: You have to make the junk ready for shipping again

The subtle Bordeaux from the website: in truth an impossible cherry red. Or the Bordeaux is actually a Bordeaux too. However, it makes the wearer thicker than he is willing to admit. So if you had saved yourself this anticipation. (Disadvantage 2a: the shirt rests with the neighbors who accepted the parcel in the morning but have now left for the weekend. In this case, disadvantage 2 does not apply until Monday.)

In the shop you can get rid of any goods immediately, but at home there is now disadvantage 3: You have to make the promise that has become junk ready for dispatch again. When it comes to shirts, many are prepared to be somewhat inconspicuous, crumple them. With the teapot, however? Perhaps it would be better to pack and glue everything according to the regulations, nicely break-proof; not that you have the trouble afterwards. And then off to the post office – Disadvantage 4.

Ever seen the queues there on a Saturday morning, not just at Christmas time? People are standing in line in front of the Texan polling station like only Americans; the package under her arm, the four-year-old by the hand, checking left and right that no one is pushing forward again.

Anyone who considers all of this to be an increase in quality of life will be granted it.


EU imposes tariffs on the USA – why now of all times? – Economy

First the congratulations, now punitive tariffs: on Saturday evening, EU representatives such as Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European heads of state and government Joe Biden congratulated on the election victory. Less than 48 hours later, Brussels then imposed tariffs on American imports. The decision was announced by Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis on Monday after a conference of EU trade ministers – another escalation of the trade dispute with Washington. At the same time Dombrovskis called again for negotiations.

The background to this is the dispute about subsidies for the aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus, which has been simmering since 2004. In mid-October, the World Trade Organization (WTO) stipulated that the EU could introduce punitive tariffs of up to four billion dollars a year against the United States to compensate for unjustified aid from the government there to Boeing. Conversely, the WTO granted Washington US $ 7.5 billion in tariffs last year because of subsidies from European countries for Airbus. In addition to airplanes, the levies also affect products such as wine, Parmesan or olive oil.

Now the EU can strike back – at a racy time. There are two reasons why Dombrovskis did not introduce tariffs in October: Firstly, this has only been possible since October 26th, when the decision was officially passed by the WTO dispute settlement body. The EU would have been suspected of wanting to influence the presidential elections if it had imposed the penalties a few days before the elections. Now the polls are over, and the trade ministers’ conference was scheduled for this Monday anyway, the only one this six months. So it was an obvious date.

The second reason for Dombrovskis’ hesitation was that the Latvian Commission Vice-President was hoping for a negotiated solution: The US should use the WTO ruling in favor of the EU as an opportunity to remove its tariffs and conclude a long-term agreement with Brussels on aircraft subsidies. But “unfortunately, despite our best efforts,” there was no movement on the US side, complained Dombrovskis – which is why the EU tariffs are now due. He stressed that his offer to negotiate was “still on the table” and called on the US to “agree that both sides lift their sanctions.”

“That goes beyond the requirements and rules of the WTO.”

However, Washington did not completely ignore Dombrovskis’ advances. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer proposed in October that the punitive tariffs should actually be abolished if Airbus repays its offensive aid to European governments in return. But Dombrovskis rejects this: “That goes beyond the requirements and rules of the WTO,” he said in an interview with SZ.

Many in Brussels are now betting that Biden will be less protectionist than incumbent Donald Trump. However, it could take time for trade policy to really change, as it will be months before Biden gets a successor for Lighthizer through the Senate. The trade dispute between Brussels and Washington is not just about aircraft subsidies: Trump imposed tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from the EU two years ago, and Brussels struck back with retaliatory tariffs. Trump also threatened further punitive tariffs if European governments or the EU introduced a special tax for digital companies. Companies like Apple and Google have so far mostly taxed their profits in the USA. There is also a dispute at the WTO. The United States is calling for comprehensive reform of the Geneva organization and blocking the WTO arbitration tribunal, much to the annoyance of the EU.

The EU’s punitive tariffs for Boeing subsidies come into effect this Tuesday. In addition to airplanes, they affect nuts, ketchup, tractors and casino tables.


Largest Aldi in the world in Mülheim: attack on Rewe and Edeka – economy

The Aldi branch in Mülheim an der Ruhr is still a construction site: In the parking lot, craftsmen are putting the last paving stones next to the new glass roof for the shopping carts. Inside, workers fill the shelves with snacks and other durable goods, while forklifts drive pallets around. It smells like a wooden shelf. In the area in the middle, where there will be rummaging tables full of special offers from Saturday on, dance classes could still do their rounds at the moment. The discounter also wants to present fruit and vegetables shortly before the opening.

With its “XXL branch”, Aldi Süd is entering a new dimension: with almost 2000 square meters of sales area, the discounter is larger than an average supermarket from Rewe or Edeka. Is this the new league in which Aldi wants to advance in the fierce competition among retailers? Should all 1940 Aldi Süd locations in Germany grow to this size in the end?

No, says Tom Ritzdorf, Head of Branch Development at Aldi Süd in the Rhineland. “The trend is rather that we are more flexible.” The new size in Mülheim is and will remain extraordinary. New Aldi buildings ranged between 900 and 1200 square meters. “On the other hand, we also have branches that are only half the size,” says Ritzdorf. “There is no longer one standard branch at Aldi Süd.” And it is by no means possible to expand every location at will, he adds: sometimes space is limited, sometimes local building law does not allow it.

Nevertheless, the food trade in Germany is on the move. The market is saturated, all providers are looking for growth opportunities – especially since the Metro group sold its Real department store chain in early summer. Many locations could now be resold, closed or converted to accommodate multiple stores.

Aldi is also considering taking over part of the portfolio. “Depending on the size and general conditions, we are interested in individual locations or parts of them,” says Ritzdorf. “It is practically impossible that we will take over locations of the full size.” Rather, it is assumed in the industry that in the future several names will be emblazoned on today’s Real branches.

However, the discounter also notices that its previous business model is reaching its limits. He has done a lot: introduced branded products, opened baking stations in the stores, switched to organic, and he now also sells convenience products. These are all things that until recently would never have been part of the discounter’s DNA. Aldi did it anyway. In the meantime, however, sales growth is slowing, market shares are being lost, but costs are rising. Industry experts therefore consider it the next logical step that Aldi is now looking for happiness in an enlarged sales area.

Especially since competitor Lidl from the Schwarz Group has a big advantage: The Neckarsulm group already owns an XXL discounter with Kaufland. Especially in times of Corona, such markets with a lot of space are in demand. People buy less, but in larger quantities. And surveys show that many would prefer to do all their shopping under one roof. Size is back in trend now. Even hypermarkets that have long been declared dead, such as Real, which can easily be five times the size of Aldi’s XXL branch, could be revived again if the pandemic continues.

Corona did not influence the decision to expand in Mülheim, says Ritzdorf. Nevertheless, the discounter benefits from the fact that the aisles of the new XXL branch are now more than two meters wide – in times when more square meters of sales area have to be reserved for each customer from Monday onwards. “We can present our products here more generously,” says the Aldi manager. The range is of course the same as in every large Aldi. With around 1700 different articles, the discounter is still well below the range offered by Rewe or Edeka. But that could change if Aldi noticed that the XXL branch in Mülheim is running and the format is scalable.

Ritzdorf says that the new branch in Mülheim is actually not a new Aldi location. The discounter has had a branch here since the early 1990s. It is a “long-established, very successful location”. In truth, however, it could turn out to be an attack on the competition who cavort across from the large parking lot and in the immediate vicinity: In addition to dm and Jacques’ wine depot, these are also Lidl, Edeka and Real.


Hamster purchases: the noodle is safe – economy

The noodle has not yet been adequately appreciated as an anchor of stability in the crisis. Regardless of which of the reputable consumer research institutes you ask, be it GfK or Nielsen, all of them certify: Recourse to pasta, regardless of its shape, was the most popular crisis management strategy in Germany in the epidemiologically most challenging months from March to May. According to GfK and Nielsen, this was expressed in an exponential increase in pasta sales in retail, which, if displayed graphically, would be similar to the spread of the coronavirus. The pasta sales and the course of the pandemic correlate proportionally to a certain extent.

In this respect, it is good news when, in view of the rapidly increasing number of infections, what is probably the best-known pasta manufacturer in Europe, Barilla from Italy, announces the expansion of a noodle train connection initiated by the company between Parma and Langenau near Ulm. The timing of the “pasta train” only knows one direction: steeply upwards. In March, at the beginning of the pandemic in Europe, only two trains a week drove to southern Germany, at the end of June there were already three and now it could soon be four, Barilla announced.

Each train consists of 16 wagons with a total of 32 containers, each of which is loaded with 490 tons of pasta, 60 tons of sauces and 40 tons of pesto. As abstract as the numbers may appear, they convey the feeling: That could be enough for this winter. The noodle is safe.

The route across the Alps is 560 kilometers long; and Parma is only 100 kilometers as the crow flies from Bergamo, the place that is considered the epicenter of the epicenter of the disease in Italy. Nevertheless, Barilla manager Bastian Diegel says: “In March Barilla delivered 50 percent more pasta to Germany than in the same month last year.” The factories, also in northern Italy, ran at full speed despite the emergency. “In some plants, more pasta was produced during the lockdown than ever before,” says the logistics expert, “albeit at significantly higher costs.”

Even now, Barilla is well prepared for what could come. However: “The need to buy stocks”, Diegel does not speak of panic, “is no longer as great as in the first wave.” For the pasta sales, on the other hand, this is not so beneficial. Diegel puts it this way: “People eat more pasta at home than in the canteen or daycare center.” Whereby: There is no valid data.

The move, in turn, has a positive effect in many ways, including for Barilla. First of all, this protects the environment. Barilla used to have the pasta transported in trucks, but the train now blows 6,000 tons less CO2 into the atmosphere, the company estimates – 70 percent less. And: “Thanks to the train, we can limit and estimate the costs of the transport much better than was previously the case with the truck,” says Diegel. So the pasta is not only safe, it also calms the ecological conscience. You’d think Barilla deserved more than this week’s German Logistics Prize.


Trade deal: EU commissioner fights for Mercosur and against punitive tariffs – economy


Björn Finke, Brussels

Valdis Dombrovskis does not give up: The executive vice-president of the EU Commission wants to save the trade agreement with the South American economic bloc Mercosur – and to do so, conclude climate protection agreements with the Brazilian government. “The agreement has many positive aspects. But at the same time we in the Commission share the worries and doubts about deforestation in the Amazon and compliance with the Paris climate protection agreement by the Mercosur countries,” said Dombrovskis in a video interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung and a handful of foreign media outlets.


Commerce: Small businesses got through the crisis better – economy

The woman at the cash register stands behind a Plexiglas pane, leaning over the counter. She has rosy cheeks and a gray wool jacket. Sigrid Gatter has been a bookseller for 15 years. There’s a lot to do today, she says. There is always a lot to do. During the exit restrictions in March and April, she worked an 80-hour week – even though her shop was actually closed. The great effort was worth it. Many small shops such as Sigrid Gatter’s bookstore in Munich were able to save themselves through the Corona period with ingenuity.

She is convinced: “During Corona, we small shops can respond to individual requests much better than the big shops.” Gatter believes that contact with people and flexibility ensured their economic survival. The big chains, companies with thousands of employees and a huge machine behind them, are not as flexible as a small shop.

Studies confirm Gatter’s impression. The Munich trading consultancy BBE evaluated the monthly sales of around 500 trading companies and surveyed 200 dealers. The result: “Smaller dealers have so far got through the crisis better than large chains,” says Managing Director Joachim Stumpf. One of the most important reasons: “The criteria for a good location have shifted with Corona.” Before the pandemic, pedestrian zones in city centers and airports were an unbeatable A-location and a secure source of income – mostly populated by international chains. Tourists, local walk-in customers, football fans, opera lovers, they all secured sales. With Corona, former B-locations are now becoming top locations. They are often located where people work from home, at home. If you don’t want to get on the subway, go shopping around the corner.

Many small traders have seized the opportunity this presented to them. Instead of the shop door, they opened their shops across Germany on the Internet, rented small trucks or cycled straight to customers. Long-established family businesses quickly offered online sales, delivery services and to-go items. Gourmet restaurants sent pasta in cardboard boxes. In order to be able to sell in times of Corona – and to be able to survive – the small shops have to be creative.

Sigrid Gatter with her bookstore also had to do this: If someone does not want to go into the store out of fear of Corona, then “of course” she will go there immediately and put the books in front of the door. It was the same during the exit restrictions. Customers could order the books in the online shop and pay via PayPal. All of this was a high bureaucratic effort for Gatter, because she had to write each invoice individually. She even delivered a small Reclam booklet for two or three euros once. Customers could also pick up the books in the health food store across the street, which was still allowed to be open. Up to 30 orders a day were piling up there at times – and there were also deliveries to the home.

Gatter also helped many neighbors. They slipped her envelopes with money for the lunch break. When ordering, they sometimes transferred five euros more. The little attentions showed her: We don’t want you to leave. One Friday evening, just before the store closed, her phone rang. A teacher offered her a month’s rent. Something bigger emerged from the offer: the website “Helpers in the Crisis”, which is supposed to bring stores in need and supporters together.

A shopkeeper chat group helped to feel less alone

Solveig Zecher, 66, also did something to save her business. She has been the owner of a clothing store in Munich for 44 years. She created a Whatsapp group for neighborhood businesses. Little by little she added interested owners to the group and did nothing more than offer a platform. Because of the chat group, one no longer had this “one-man panic”, says Zecher. This also distinguishes the owners from the big chains: They are often lone fighters. You have to take care of yourself and not wait for someone else to do it for you.

“The small shops are the winners right now, we’re already noticing that,” says Zecher. Unlike Gatter’s bookstore, the clothing store does not have its own online shop through which customers could buy clothing during the exit restrictions. Zecher and their employees increasingly used Instagram as an advertising and sales platform. Every day during the shop closings, they posted pictures of the clothes on the social network, and the shop there has now 970 posts. Sometimes the clothes hang on hangers in front of the store, sometimes they are presented by the staff. During the exit restrictions, customers could also order their clothes on Instagram. After the seven weeks, the rush in the store was great. People even came to her and thanked her for the Instagram appearance. At the moment, Zecher is making ends meet very well. You have the feeling that during Corona, people came to appreciate small shops more. “Because they know the big ones survive anyway. But what happens when the little ones are gone?”

The question is: will it stay that way? Trade expert Stumpf is skeptical: “When Corona is over, the old normal will return,” he estimates. Then the same criteria would apply again as before the pandemic. You can already see the development in online trading. The big hype during the shop closings is over. People are now shopping less online again. But maybe a little of what made the small traders so strong during the crisis will remain.

In any case, bookseller Gatter still has many ideas: a book flap in front of the shop, a Christmas booth, a VW bus as a sales room, longer opening times for browsing. All of this is being planned. Do you think about Corona in general? “Oh, yes. I have a lot of sleepless nights,” she says. Not because of her health, she adds. But because she’s worried about her shop. The Christmas business is the most important in their industry. Now, if there are more shop closings, she has to come up with something. Then she has to be creative again.


Munich: The last days of Karstadt am Nordbad – Munich

This is called eviscerated. Empty showcases, empty shelves, the silver clothes racks have been pushed aside. “One more day” is written on the wide entrance portal of Karstadt am Nordbad, and one can assume that every employee here who holds his position as brave as it is final is in a strange mood. A customer asks whether it is possible to get parts of the furniture. Another says that she was there when the West Schwabing department store opened. It was 1968, at that time the concrete fortress still looked rather futuristic between the old buildings around the north bath, which was decorated with a portico.

It’s now closing time – forever. The Karstadt am Nordbad closes after more than half a century. With him, the Karstadt closes in the Olympia shopping center – although there is a department store of the same group in the immediate vicinity, similar to the previously rescued Kaufhof on Stachus. The Karstadt am Nordbad is far and wide the only one of its kind. Officially, this Saturday is the last day of sale. In the three-story bunker, however, there is very little that could attract customers. A garish discount campaign – the advertising banners are still hanging on the facade – has long since emptied shelves, clothes racks and freezers.

The upper floor is already locked, there is nothing left to stumble upon. Employees run around pushing furniture back and forth. In the now void it becomes clear how huge the surfaces actually are. Everything is still brightly lit and the escalators are in operation. Soon, when it is cleared out, all of this will be empty and gloomy, as a demolished house. A strange idea.

The sausage counter in the basement is still occupied, there is no more fish. There are occasional groceries on the shelves. Vinegar, wine, spices and sweets. A couple of huge Advent wreaths are waiting for the last bargain buyers. The freezers have already been cleared.

The end of the Karstadt branch at Nordbad is affecting many residents.

(Photo: Alessandra Schellnegger)

Outside on Schleissheimer Strasse, on a pane of glass, there is a protest sticker: “The Benkos expropriate”, it says. In reference to the Austrian investor to whom Karstadt and Kaufhof have belonged for some time. On the glass entrance doors there is a note of solidarity from a “sad old customer”, as the clerk himself put it. The closure is a severe blow for Schwabing.

For decades, the department store, located directly on Nordbad, was a central point of contact when there was something to be found quickly that you would otherwise have to drive to the city center for. Where you could buy a Christmas tree at the last minute on Christmas Eve. Where, when the shop opening hours were still more strictly regulated, there was still pork schnitzel when the other supermarkets were already closed.

Of course, the closure of the once so important contact point is also a symbol of the change in the consumer world. The department stores suffer like hardly anyone else from the trend to shop digitally – in the better times of the Karstadt am Nordbad it was rather frowned upon to constantly besiege your own couch and do everything from home. Although there was already a mail order business back then, but it had an even more stuffy reputation than the department stores. All of that has changed.

The long-established Karstadt am Nordbad closes forever.

(Photo: Alessandra Schellnegger)

The Schwabinger have started a rescue attempt. A residents’ initiative collected signatures for the preservation of the district meeting point, and Ruth Waldmann (SPD) member of the state parliament initiated an online petition. And also reminded of the fate of the many Karstadt employees who are now threatened with unemployment. It was all of no use. In the farewell letter from the workforce, which is taped outside on the front door, it is now a reminder where a good place is for recruiting: here.


Markus Dohle from Penguin Radom House: “People want to read” – economy

As the head of Penguin Random House, Markus Dohle is one of the most powerful in the book industry. A conversation about big and small publishers in the corona crisis and the question of what it’s like to publish the biographies of Barack and Michelle Obama.

Interview by

Caspar Busse

He is one of the powerful in the book industry: Markus Dohle, 52, is the boss of Penguin Random House, by far the largest book publisher in the world, with around 10,000 employees and 15,000 new publications a year. Successful authors such as John Grisham, Salman Rushdie, Nick Hornby and Margaret Atwood are published. Dohle conducts the interview from home in a New York suburb. The publishing offices in Manhattan are still closed.


Rossmann takes back discount – economy

A good three months after the introduction of the VAT cut, the measure adopted by the federal government has met with open criticism from major trading companies. “The entire VAT cut is absurd. It is socially unbalanced, it hardly helps those who are suffering from the crisis, and the hoped-for increase in consumption has not materialized,” said Raoul Roßmann, the designated head of the second largest German drugstore chain Rossmann der SZ and added: “It cannot be that a country invests 20 billion euros, which corresponds to the budget for research and education, for nothing.”

Christoph Werner, head of the industry leader dm, also criticizes the measure: “At dm, we pass on the VAT reduction item by item to our customers in full. However, we can also observe that the tax reduction decided by the federal government largely fizzled out and would certainly have more effective measures can be decided. “

Rossmann would have considered consumer vouchers, as they were distributed by the government in other countries, to be a better, because more targeted, measure. He strongly advises against extending the VAT cut beyond the end of the year, as it is being discussed by the trade association and parts of politics: “It would be fatal to let this continue because the new debt would be unfair to the following generations and passes the goal. ” Roßmann considers direct help for textile retailers or restaurateurs to be more sensible and advocates a tax on online retailers above a certain turnover. In this way, one could decelerate the structural change in the inner cities.

The drugstore chain Rossmann is now the first large retail group in Germany to take back the discount of 0.5 percentage points granted in addition to the VAT reduction. In the almost 2200 branches nationwide, the second largest German druggist only grants the 2.5 percent discount on drugstore goods decided by the government. Rossmann gave the additional discount to prevent misunderstandings. The federal government had lowered the VAT rate on July 1 for six months from 19 to 16 or from 7 to 5 percentage points. Mathematically, however, this only corresponds to a price that is 2.5 or 1.9 percent lower. The government wanted to boost consumption with the measure, the cost of which is estimated at 20 billion euros.

During the Corona crisis, supermarkets have become competitors for the druggists

Rossmann had already withdrawn the discount in the last week of September without causing a stir. “It is not a problem to take back something that nobody notices but costs us a lot of money,” explains Raoul Roßmann. The discount would have reduced the company’s margin by a higher single-digit million amount in the remaining three months.

According to a survey carried out by the trade association HDE in August, 85 percent of the retailers surveyed believe that the government’s tax gift is going to waste. The effect is assessed differently in the individual branches of industry. In the fashion trade, the “oomph” of which Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) spoke has therefore not arrived; in some cases in the furniture industry. With electronics and household appliance dealers, skepticism prevails; the grocery trade would not have needed any government support. And according to the economic experts at the market research company GfK, the VAT cut has made a significant contribution to the rapid recovery in consumer sentiment in Germany. According to GfK, supermarkets and discounters have become competitors for chemists during the Corona crisis. Aldi Süd said on request that it would continue to give a three percent discount.