Shopping: Here’s how the pandemic has hit German spending habits

Consumers in Germany have been spending a lot less during the pandemic, new research has confirmed - with clothing shops hit particularly hard.

Shopping: Here's how the pandemic has hit German spending habits
People shopping in Cologne in March 2021. Photo: DPA

Many shops and indoor dining in restaurants have been closed for months, and lots of people have been working from home – so it’s perhaps not a huge surprise that the restrictions put in place to stem the spread of Covid-19 in 2020 are leaving a clear mark on private consumption.

According to calculations by the Institut der Deutschen Wirtschaft (IW), consumers in Germany spent an average of at least €1,250 less in 2020 than in the year before the crisis started.

In total, this corresponds to a decrease in consumer spending of €116 billion, according to the study by the research institute.

Compared to 2019, consumption fell by 6.1 percent – more than it has in 70 years.

For the first quarter of 2021, researchers put the consumption shortfall at a further €40 to €60 billion.

READ ALSO: Here’s how Germany’s Kinderbonus payments boosted economy in pandemic

In 2020 German residents would have bought very few short-lived consumer goods such as clothing or shoes, write the authors of the study, reported Spiegel.

The purchase of durable consumer goods, such as cars or furniture, also declined in the course of the first lockdown, but demand in the second half of 2020 increased by five percent compared to the previous year.

The IW experts partly attribute this to the temporary VAT cut put in place by the German government in a bid to boost spending.

In 2020 as a whole, the decrease in spending totaled €78 billion – more than two percent of the German GDP.

“The state-decreed closure of body-related services, restaurants, hotels, leisure and event facilities have made many consumer wishes impossible,” summarised IW’s Hubertus Bardt.

Researchers expect private consumption to catch up as the pandemic subsides. But at the moment it appears people are still not in the buying mood.

According to a survey carried out by the IW together with other research groups, 43 percent of Germans want to save the part of their income that remains after basic expenses. Usually it is less than 30 percent.

And only a third of those surveyed stated that they currently plan to spend money on vacations – in non-pandemic times this number is usually 45 to 50 percent.

Again, this isn’t surprising given that Germany is still in the grip of the third wave of the pandemic, with no signs of when people will be able to go shopping and travel freely again.


Consumer/consumers – (der) Verbraucher or (die) Verbraucher

Decrease/decline in consumer spending – Rückgang der Konsumausgaben

im Vergleich mit – compared with

Durable – langlebig

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Could there be a new wave of Covid-19 in Germany this autumn?

It’s back again: amid sinking temperatures, the incidence of Covid-19 has been slowly rising in Germany. But is this enough to merit worrying about the virus?

Could there be a new wave of Covid-19 in Germany this autumn?

More people donning face masks in supermarkets, friends cancelling plans last minute due to getting sick with Covid-19. We might have seen some of those familiar reminders recently that the coronavirus is still around, but could there really be a resurgence of the virus like we experienced during the pandemic years?

According to virologists, the answer seems to be ‘maybe’: since July, the number of people newly infected with Covid-19 has been slowly rising from a very low level.

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), nine people per 100,000 inhabitants became newly infected in Germany last week. A year ago, there were only around 270 reported cases.

Various Corona variants are currently on the loose in the country. According to the RKI,  the EG.5 (also called Eris) and XBB.1.16 lines were each detected in the week ending September 3rd with a share of just under 23 percent. 

The highly mutated variant BA.2.86 (Pirola), which is currently under observation by the World Health Organisation (WHO), also arrived in the country this week, according to RKI. 

High number of unreported case

The RKI epidemiologists also warned about a high number of unreported cases since hardly any testing is done. They pointed out that almost half of all registered sewage treatment plants report an increasing viral load in wastewater tests.

The number of hospital admissions has also increased slightly, but are still a far cry from the occupation rate amid the pandemic. Last week it was two per 100,000 inhabitants. In the intensive care units, only 1.2 percent of all beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients.

Still, a good three-quarters (76.4 percent) of people in Germany have been vaccinated at least twice and thus have basic immunity, reported RKI. 

Since Monday, doctors’ offices have been vaccinating with the adapted vaccine from Biontech/Pfizer, available to anyone over 12 years old, with a vaccine for small children set to be released the following week and one for those between 5 and 11 to come out October 2nd.

But Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has so far only recommended that people over 60 and those with pre-existing conditions get vaccinated.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Who should get a Covid jab this autumn in Germany?

“The pandemic is over, the virus remains,” he said. “We cannot predict the course of coming waves of corona, but it is clear that older people and people with pre-existing conditions remain at higher risk of becoming severely ill from Covid-19”

The RKI also recommended that people with a cold voluntarily wear a mask. Anyone exhibiting cough, cold, sore throat or other symptoms of a respiratory illness should voluntarily stay at home for three to five days and take regular corona self-tests. 

However, further measures such as contact restrictions are not necessary, he said.

One of many diseases

As of this autumn, Covid-19 could be one of many respiratory diseases. As with influenza, there are no longer absolute infection figures for coronavirus.

Saarbrücken pharmacist Thorsten Lehr told German broadcaster ZDF that self-protection through vaccinations, wearing a mask and getting tested when symptoms appear are prerequisites for surviving the Covid autumn well. 

Only a new, more aggressive mutation could completely turn the game around, he added.

On April 7th of this year, Germany removed the last of its over two-year long coronavirus restrictions, including mask-wearing in some public places.

READ ALSO: German doctors recommend Covid-19 self-tests amid new variant