New ideas needed – village shops in crisis

Some people in town still can’t believe it: “Are you really closing your store right now?” Alexandra Sinz is asked many times by her clients. For 13 years, the “Dorflädle” in Röthenbach in the Allgäu has offered meat, sausages and bread. But the residents could also buy shower gel, yoghurt and vegetables. Just a lot of what you need in everyday life. But because Sinz was ordering smaller quantities from wholesalers to a village store, the products were relatively expensive to buy: “I actually bought some items at the supermarket because they were much cheaper there.” But that wasn’t the only challenge for the village shop.

Close to village shops in Swabia

Business was going well until the pandemic, says Sinz. She also delivered for festivals and celebrations, but then a lot broke up. “Due to Corona’s requirements, sometimes only one person was allowed into the company’s premises and it was difficult to home study with a child,” he says. The store has recently undergone a renovation, but it didn’t really pay off. The managing director should have invested even more as more and more customers wanted to pay by card.

“Last year, on Fridays, there was a weekly market that also cost some purchasing power,” says Sinz. Ultimately, the income and effort were no longer in a reasonable proportion. Other rural Swabian shops have also recently gone bankrupt, in Unterallgäu in Eppishausen and in Haslach. The village shop in Riedheim in the Günzburg district is likely to close as well, the shop has not been open since mid-May.

Tips for the success of your village shop

Wolfgang Gröll from the Federal Association of Civic and Rural Shops does not want to see a fundamental negative trend. Many stores have survived the pandemic well and may have entered the market. Many new rural stores are currently under construction in Bavaria. Gröll has been supporting and advising them for decades and imparting practical knowledge. He advises to inspire people again and again, for example, with a holiday calendar where special promotions are organized in the store every day.

“A village shop with a small cafe can also become a meeting point in a village if it can be reached quickly and easily,” says Gröll. He recommends offering more regional products to make the stores different from regular supermarkets: “But it is also important to have basic items such as sugar, flour and butter, which people then buy at the village store.”

The farmhouse rewards “home subscription” – to tie customers

Almost all of these tips can also be found in “Herzstück”, a joint project in Horgau. The village shop started operating in July last year, just before the holidays: “It made us frown when suddenly there were far fewer customers on vacation,” says Anja Dördelmann.

To compensate for such drops in sales, the cooperative introduced a “home subscription”: an individual pays € 17 a month and receives a 20% discount on most products in return. If you spend around 85 euros a month in the store, you have saved a monthly subscription – if you continue shopping, you will profit accordingly. The subscription card not only reminds customers to come back to the village shop, it also provides security in relation to your continued income.

Inflation and rising labor costs

Anja Dördelmann believes that many village shops have to move into new territory in order to survive in the future. He sees an obstacle in the minimum wage, which will rise to € 12 in October. “Of course we want to pay our employees well, but the staff is the biggest cost item. And consumers naturally want longer opening hours, so we have to think about something. ‘

Dördelmann hopes inflation will return to normal. As some customers are re-buying at discounters more and more due to the higher prices: “It’s not only a shame for our store, but also for our around 30 suppliers because they come from the region. And that’s where the added value should stay. “

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