Retailers are worried about their Christmas sales

The Christmas business is entering its hot phase. But delivery bottlenecks in the Corona crisis are causing retailers great concern – they cannot meet all customer requirements.

The Christmas business is now in full swing. The race for gifts has been running since Black Week at the latest. But here, too, Corona makes itself felt with its effects on the supply chains. Electronics retailers and toy stores in Cologne have to put their customers off more and more often or convince them of other brands when that one television of a certain size is no longer available before Christmas.

Wolfgang Meller has his shop in Cologne-Poll and only gets a supply of electrical appliances with a delay. “It is particularly difficult at the moment with washing machines, dishwashers or ceramic hobs. There are the first gaps in our Miele department. In some cases, delivery times are up to March,” says Meller.

Gaps on the shelf for dishwashers in the Menner electronics store in Cologne-Poll: Dishwashers and washing machines in particular are currently difficult to come by. (Source: Michael Hartke / t-online)

Cologne: The problem with the chips

In contrast, it is still very well positioned for TVs. There are enough alternatives here that he can offer his customers. “Samsung devices in sizes 55 or 65 inches are currently not available.” For some German manufacturers, on the other hand, the smaller televisions are in short supply.

In addition, cheap models are difficult to get. The chips that manufacturers can get, they prefer to build into high-priced televisions. For customers this means to be flexible and not to commit to a certain manufacturer if the gift should be under the tree.

Menner: “We can’t get the money in because the goods don’t come”

Other buyers would have no problem waiting for their very special product, says René Titzer, who sells high-quality hi-fi systems and streaming devices in Cologne-Bayenthal: “For the most part, my customers accept the longer delivery times. Especially for high-priced, hand-made devices are you ready to wait half a year? ” However, to be fair, you have to inform customers about it.

Titzer prepared early for the Christmas business and filled his warehouse. He ordered everything he could get. However, he had to increase his prices for poorly available products by an average of 20 percent.

Despite the good starting position, the problem does not go away completely for Wolfgang Menner and René Titzer. The delivery problem tears a big hole in the till that cannot be closed again so quickly. “We ordered large quantities of goods and paid in advance,” says Menner worriedly. “We can’t get this money back because the goods don’t come because either ports in China are closed or parts are missing.”

Cologne electronics retailer: “Small businesses are doomed to fail”

René Titzer sees the industry in crisis in the long term, because disrupted supply chains would affect the retail sector with a delay. “Almost all of the small, family-run shops in Cologne are gone. The cost of rent and staff keep rising, and stricter environmental regulations mean increased transport costs,” explains the electronics retailer.

Due to the lack of income – due to missing goods – retailers can then neither order more goods, nor pay their staff or the shop rent. “In the medium term, almost all smaller businesses are doomed to failure,” fears Titzer.

Larger corporations could emerge from the crisis as winners. As a spokeswoman for MediaMarktSaturn told t-online on request, there are currently no bottlenecks here. The camps are well filled. Still, the situation would be closely monitored. Some suppliers have already signaled that there could be bottlenecks for smartphones, tablets, printers, dishwashers and refrigerators in the next few months.

Certain bikes will arrive next year at the earliest

But not only televisions and the PlayStation like to end up under the Christmas tree, bicycles are also popular with young and old. But the recipient will have to cut back on this this year too. “Getting a very specific model in a very special color for Christmas is difficult,” says Marcel Jansen, the owner of a small bicycle shop in the Belgian Quarter.

The so-called gravel bikes are particularly popular, he says. These are bikes that you can’t tell that they are e-bikes. But if you want to put any everyday bike under the Christmas tree, then it is quite well set up with its large warehouse. “At the beginning of the Corona lockdown in early 2020, many bike dealers were worried that they would not be able to sell their goods. That is why many canceled their orders,” says Jansen.

At first he too was afraid for his business. When it turned out that things would go on after all, he had the right nose and bought up the many canceled goods. He lives on that now. In a way, he foresaw the boom in his industry because Corona made buses and trains unattractive.

Jansen: “The small ones are being displaced by the big ones”

It looks similar with Max Prumbaum in his bike shop in Dellbrück. He bravely ordered bicycles a year and a half ago and can therefore serve almost all customer requests. Nevertheless, both dealers notice bottlenecks here and there and advise you to look around for a bike as soon as possible, try it out and make a decision. An end to the boom is currently not in sight.

Max Prumbaum's warehouse is full: he still ordered bicycles at the beginning of the corona pandemic.  Now he can serve almost all customer requirements.  (Source: t-online / Michael Hartke)Max Prumbaum’s warehouse is full: he still ordered bicycles at the beginning of the corona pandemic. Now he can serve almost all customer requirements. (Source: Michael Hartke / t-online)

People wanted out, do sports, live healthier. That creates more demand – which many small businesses could not satisfy. “Unfortunately, the structure of the bicycle industry is currently changing. There used to be 105 bicycle shops in Cologne. Many of them are being displaced by the big ones,” regrets Jansen.

Cologne bicycle dealer: “We pick new bikes apart for spare parts”

In general, it is difficult to get supplies from Asia – even with spare parts, he explains. Many of the bikes or components of e-bikes come from there. Factories, e.g. B. in Indonesia, are tight, freight containers are stuck in ports because of a lack of staff. Incidentally, this also leads to higher prices. This is another reason why Max Prumbaum advises ordering a bike this year if possible: “Some manufacturers are assuming price increases of up to 600 euros in the high-price segment”.

Marcel Jansen, the owner of the bike shop Marcel Jansen, the owner of the “Radfieber” bike shop, has taken good precautions, but there are gaps in some parts too: New bikes are sometimes dismantled for spare parts. (Source: Michael Hartke / t-online)

Another problem is repairs that used to be quick and easy. If you want to replace a pinion on your bike, for example, that is often not available either. “We are now even picking apart new bicycles to get spare parts that have an extremely long delivery time,” says Jansen. There are now queues at the reception in his workshop because the employees there first have to check whether they can repair the bike at all.

Hardware stores are struggling to deliver on time

And DIY stores also have difficulties in getting wood, plastic, metal, electrical and spare parts from Asia, the Bauhaus chain announced on request. This could increase prices and extend delivery times. The Hagebau hardware store chain is therefore increasingly relying on European partners. Nevertheless, Hagebau was also affected by the tense global situation. There is a lack of raw materials and freight capacities to transport goods from Asia to Europe. Affected are z. B. Lights and lamps in which chips and semiconductors are installed. They could be hard to come by.

Empty shelves at the building materials in a hardware store in Langenfeld near Cologne: wood and plastic are currently hardly available.  (Source: t-online / Michael Hartke)Empty shelves at the building materials in a hardware store in Langenfeld near Cologne: wood and plastic are currently hardly available. (Source: Michael Hartke / t-online)

Building and do-it-yourself are also experiencing a boom, which is making the situation even worse. Against this background, Hagebau is increasingly relying on other sources of supply or purchasing at an early stage. “Every customer who cannot get a product from us is definitely one too many,” says the company.


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