BERLIN — Mannequins modeling toilet paper. Noodles in the sweater aisle. Those are just a few of the tricks that some German clothing stores are using to circumvent the country’s strict lockdown measures.
As Germany restricts nonessential businesses in an attempt to curb its third pandemic wave, some shop owners are adding “essential” items to their inventory, hoping to skirt the rules.
Last month, Modehaus Kuhn, a family-run clothing store in the southwestern German town of Bad Mergentheim, rebranded itself as a “Toilet paper flagship store” and added toilet paper and other toiletry items, as well as food, to its inventory. Johannes Kuhn, a 28-year old manager of the store, said the idea was inspired by a shop in nearby Emmendingen that had implemented a similar plan three days earlier.
“We did it to remain open and generate sales that are basically essential for our survival,” said Kuhn. “On the other hand, it’s satire that’s simply a criticism of the injustices of [government] decisions.”
While essential businesses such as grocery and drugstores have been kept open across Germany with few restrictions, customers of nonessential stores can be required to show a negative coronavirus test, book appointments or place orders online. Kuhn said it’s “absurd” to enforce hygienic measures in some stores but not others. Under the government measures, his revenue dropped by about 30 percent. With the toilet paper gimmick, it has risen “greatly,” Kuhn said.
Clothing stores across Germany have called Kuhn for advice on how to implement the idea. But as more states face increased pressure from the federal government to curb infection numbers, many stores have given in to government restrictions. This week, German leaders pushed for a national law to enforce stricter lockdown measures across the country.
“The air is getting very thin,” said Kuhn, referring to the new federal law. “We’ll probably have to close again, too.”