The heart of a typical medieval European city is its marketplace, where goods were traded, information was exchanged or social contacts were maintained. The marketplace was where economic life took place, where supply and demand came together. To this day, a lively and diverse city center is important for the attractiveness of cities – this applies to both residents and visitors. Today, the cityscape is dominated by restaurants, service providers and retailers. Stationary retail is particularly important, with around 320,000 locations, while gastronomy, with around 124,000, has only about half as many locations.
However, stationary retail has come under pressure and there is occasional talk of a “store death”. There are various reasons for this trend: If it was initially the shopping malls that often drew demand to the outskirts of the city, in the past ten years it has been primarily the Internet that has been competing with stationary retail as a whole. It is not only the retail sector itself that is looking for solutions; cities and municipalities are also trying to promote local retail and thus maintain attractive and livable city centers. Various measures are being used to achieve this:
- Regulations against the establishment of “downtown-relevant product ranges” on the outskirts of the city or on “greenfield sites”
- Promotion of business locations in the city centers including a suitable infrastructure
- City marketing and promotion of demand in the stationary retail sector, for example through events in the city centers or marketing
Increasing digitization also plays a role in promoting stationary trade. Some chambers of industry and commerce (IHK) offer training for retailers, for example. Furthermore, cities and, in some cases, advertising associations of local retailers are endeavoring to generate visibility for the stationary offering on online channels in order to retain local purchasing power as a result. These initiatives range widely – from WhatsApp groups to local online marketplaces. The Corona-related store closures in parts of the retail sector have further accelerated this development and led to an unmanageable variety of initiatives to promote local trade.
Some of these initiatives have been supported by substantial federal or state funding, and many have been launched through the spirited commitment of local stakeholders. Very few of these initiatives, however, have succeeded in creating a lasting impact or persisting after the pandemic has subsided.
The study by eStrategy Consulting covers various initiatives to promote retail in Germany and German-speaking countries. The study makes no aspiration to completeness. Rather, the different approaches are to be categorized, described and evaluated. Based on this, strategies and success factors for stationary retail as well as for local players will be presented.
Beginning with a presentation of the digital solution approaches, the study first provides an overview of various initiatives. The evaluation of the approaches is based on the assessment and experience of eStrategy Consulting, which was supplemented by various interviews with representatives of the initiatives as well as of cities and municipalities, economic development agencies, chambers of industry, commerce associations, and advertising associations of local retailers. In addition, a look was also taken at the activities of established marketplaces and platforms such as Amazon, eBay and Zalando, which have developed offerings for stationary retail.