The heart of a typical European city is its marketplace. Goods are traded, information is exchanged, and social relationships are maintained. Here, economic life is played out when supply and demand meet. Today, a vibrant and diverse city center is key to its attractiveness — this applies to its residents and visitors. A cityscape is characterized by gastronomy, service providers, and retailers. There are over 340,000 sites of particular importance in the stationary trade in Germany, while in gastronomy, there are around half (180,000) as many locations.
Stationary retail shops in the city are under pressure, and their closures are occasionally referred to as “the death of the retail store.” There are several reasons for this trend: While initially the shopping malls that often attracted demand to the outskirts of the city, in the past ten years, it was primarily the Internet that has become the main competition for inner-city stationary retail. It’s not only retail itself looking for a solution, but the city and the municipalities are looking to promote local trade, therefore obtaining more attractive and livable city centers. Different measures are used to do so:
- Regulations against settlement of “inner-city relevant assortments” on the outskirts of the city or on “greenfield sites”
- Promotion of business settlements in the inner cities, including a suitable infrastructure
- City marketing (promoting the city itself) and stimulating demand in stationary retail, for example through physical events in the inner cities or just traditional marketing.
Increasing digitization plays a role in the promotion of retail stores as well. That is why some chambers of commerce (IHK) offer training for retailers. Some cities and in some cases, the advertising associations of local merchants are trying to create visibility for their stationery offers on online channels to bind regional purchasing power. These initiatives have large bandwidth, including WhatsApp Groups and local online marketplaces. The corona-related store closures in parts of the retail industry have accelerated this development once again and led to a wide variety of initiatives.
This study by eStrategy Consulting includes numerous initiatives to promote retail in Germany and German-speaking countries. However, the study does not claim to be complete. Instead, the different approaches are just presented, categorized, described, and evaluated. On this basis, strategies and success factors are outlined for retailers and municipal actors.
Starting with a presentation of different digital solutions, the study begins with an overview of the initiatives. The basis for the following overview was the lists of the German trade association (HDE) with their initiative „Merchants helping Merchants, articles in the trade press, as well as interviews with representatives of different initatives. Also they take a look at the activities of established marketplaces and platforms like Amazon, eBay, and Zalando, who have also developed initiatives to support stationary retailers.