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ECONOMY

Hardware stores beat crisis as Germans take to nesting

Overall retail sales in Germany may have dropped by almost 2 percent for 2009 following the financial crisis, but most hardware stores actually increased their sales by 0.7 percent, a media report said on Monday.

Hardware stores beat crisis as Germans take to nesting
Photo: DPA

According to news magazine Der Spiegel, German home improvement chains such as Obi and Hornbach bucked the recession last year.

Experts describe the trend as “homing,” when people choose to stay home and nest instead of spending money on vacations, the magazine said.

“The trend strengthened in the recent recession,” branch analyst Christoph Schlienkamp told the magazine.

Many in the industry also managed to make it through the hard winter of 2010 without much damage, with an average of 2.3 percent in gains for the first quarter.

And even though gardening sales are in jeopardy thanks to an unusually rainy and cold May, many chains are expanding and giving up on price wars, though not always to positive effect, the magazine said.

Praktiker has stopped its “20 percent off everything” campaign and now has about one quarter of its 441 locations in countries outside of Germany. But many of the new Praktiker stores are in eastern Europe, which has not had a stabilising effect on earnings.

Meanwhile Hornbach, which only has 11 of its 131 stores located in eastern Europe, is doing relatively well, Schlienkamp told the magazine.

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ECONOMY

German consumer prices set to rise steeply amid war in Ukraine

Russia's war in Ukraine is slowing down the economy and accelerating inflation in Germany, the Ifo Institute has claimed.

German consumer prices set to rise steeply amid war in Ukraine

According to the Munich-based economics institute, inflation is expected to rise from 5.1 to 6.1 percent in March. This would be the steepest rise in consumer prices since 1982.

Over the past few months, consumers in Germany have already had to battle with huge hikes in energy costs, fuel prices and increases in the price of other everyday commodities.

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With Russia and Ukraine representing major suppliers of wheat and grain, further price rises in the food market are also expected, putting an additional strain on tight incomes. 

At the same time, the ongoing conflict is set to put a dampener on the country’s annual growth forecasts. 

“We only expect growth of between 2.2 and 3.1 percent this year,” Ifo’s head of economic research Timo Wollmershäuser said on Wednesday. 

Due to the increase in the cost of living, consumers in Germany could lose around €6 billion in purchasing power by the end of March alone.

With public life in Germany returning to normal and manufacturers’ order books filling up, a significant rebound in the economy was expected this year. 

But the war “is dampening the economy through significantly higher commodity prices, sanctions, increasing supply bottlenecks for raw materials and intermediate products as well as increased economic uncertainty”, Wollmershäuser said.

Because of the current uncertainly, the Ifo Institute calculated two separate forecasts for the upcoming year.

In the optimistic scenario, the price of oil falls gradually from the current €101 per barrel to €82 by the end of the year, and the price of natural gas falls in parallel.

In the pessimistic scenario, the oil price rises to €140 per barrel by May and only then falls to €122 by the end of the year.

Energy costs have a particularly strong impact on private consumer spending.

They could rise between 3.7 and 5 percent, depending on the developments in Ukraine, sanctions on Russia and the German government’s ability to source its energy. 

On Wednesday, German media reported that the government was in the process of thrashing out an additional set of measures designed to support consumers with their rising energy costs.

The hotly debated measures are expected to be finalised on Wednesday evening and could include increased subsidies, a mobility allowance, a fuel rebate and a child bonus for families. 

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s proposals for future energy price relief

In one piece of positive news, the number of unemployed people in Germany should fall to below 2.3 million, according to the Ifo Institute.

However, short-time work, known as Kurzarbeit in German, is likely to increase significantly in the pessimistic scenario.

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