Luxembourg shopper Anne browses clothing in Akabobuttek on Monday 11 May
Photo: Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne
After an eight-week lockdown, Luxembourg retailers waited hopefully for shoppers to return when they reopened their doors on Monday.
A tour of independent shops in the Gare district in Luxembourg City found shopkeepers in philosophical mood. Many think it will take time for the public to come back, and not just because many people continue to work from home.
“I think the customers are afraid there will be a lot of people in the shops and that they will have to wait outside because of social distancing,” Carsten Licht, owner of the GEA Aktiv Shop told Delano. “We hope that people will come back. For now it will take time,” he added.
Jihad of florist Flower Action on Avenue de la Liberté said it had been a disappointingly quiet first day. “I think that people are afraid to go shopping or buy plants or flowers from us. They go out for their basic needs and that is it.”
Customers like Anne, a Luxembourg student I spoke to in Akabobuttek came because she needed something specific. But what about supporting her favourite independent shops? “That as well, for sure,” she said. Loyal customers were the main ones visiting Extrabold, a clothing store on Avenue de la Liberté, according to owner Antoine. Renata, who was browsing the rails when we stopped by, said she had ventured out just to get out of the house and see what was open. “We wanted to get a coffee but the cafés are all closed,” she said.
Shopkeepers have been able to benefit from some of the State aid offered to small businesses. All of those we spoke to had applied for short-time working. Several had received the €5,000 non-repayable aid.
“At least for the coronavirus we get help. For the tram we get nothing,” Antoine said of the two years’ of roadworks outside his shop that have hampered sales. But with a monthly rent of €10,000, and outstanding invoices to pay, the aid only goes so far.
Of the four stores we visited, three had created or were in the process of creating online sales platforms. Felix of Akabobuttek said the store launched its website during lockdown. “It went well, better than expected,” he said. GEA Aktiv has had an online presence for the past three years. Licht said that at the beginning of lockdown he was receiving orders from as far as Spain and France. But the online store is no substitute for opening his shop. And all shopkeepers were apprehensive of what the future holds.
“If it continues like this, it’s going to be hard. I’ve a friend who has a clothing store nearby. He said after a week like this he’ll be finished. It’s just not worth opening,” Salah of Flower Action said.