Nina Kiesow sits in the office - even if it doesn't look like it during the joint video conference.
Because bags and suitcases pile up in the background.
"We currently have to use the office space as a warehouse," says the managing director of the medium-sized shoe and leather goods retailer Kiesow from Kleve on the Lower Rhine since 1850, apologetically.
Because almost everything stays where it is, describes the entrepreneur, who is also President of the Leather Goods Trade Association (BLE).
"We have an 85 percent drop in sales in the leather goods sector." Practically nobody is currently buying bags and suitcases, especially not since the recent lockdown.
Kiesow is now afraid for the existence of her traditional company.
“The commitment of the past decades is running through our fingers,” describes the dealer.
And with each additional day in lockdown, the damage increases.
"In the meantime we see ourselves more and more in a hopeless situation."
And Kiesow is not alone with this dramatic cry for help.
The colleagues from the fashion and shoe trade are also sounding the alarm.
Around half a billion unsold parts are currently in stores, reports the Textile Trade Association (BTE) and the Shoes Trade Association (BDSE).
"The industry is on the brink," warns BTE President Steffen Jost.
“If the long-promised federal aid does not come soon, an exodus is imminent.
We can no longer afford to hang around for weeks. ”The majority of specialist dealers are financially drained and are facing insolvency.
Indeed, the numbers are dramatic.
According to preliminary BTE calculations, stationary clothing retailers will have lost around 30 percent of their sales in 2020, while shoe and leather goods sellers will lose between 20 and 30 percent.
In total, this corresponds to a volume of around 15 billion euros.
Then there is the lockdown in January, the extension in February and then the beginning of spring.
"The winter goods are becoming increasingly unsalable every day," warns Jost.
Because fashion has an expiration date.
“Imagine this happening to the auto industry.
Then Germany will be on fire, ”says Jost.
"With us, however, every corona measure is simply waved through by politicians."
Retailers feel badly treated
In addition, he has the impression that the downtown dealers are being labeled as yesterday.
Many of them are also on the move digitally.
"But that can only be a supplement and not replace the business in the store one-to-one."
The medium-sized shoe retailer Zumnorde, for example, with stores in Münster, Bielefeld, Osnabrück, Erfurt and Cologne has been relying on online trading for ten years and doubled its internet share in the pandemic year 2020 from 20 to 40 percent.
The company is also working on video shopping formats.
"Nevertheless, we are standing in front of a cliff and trenches are opening that we are not sure we can negotiate," says owner Thomas Zumnorde-Mertens.
His company is currently selling the silverware piece by piece in order to survive.
"We see 120 percent growth in slippers." In the other categories, however, it looks extremely bad.
"We are currently fighting for every single pair of shoes."
In the Mark Rauschen stores, on the other hand, there are thousands of sweaters and jackets that get stuck.
"We only sold one percent of the ski clothing," says the managing partner of Lengermann & Trieschmann from Osnabrück.
Usually around six million visitors cavort in the shops in Lower Saxony every year.
"The Eiffel Tower in Paris doesn't have any more."
Rauschen now hopes that this time will come again and also calls for help from politics.
“We are currently endangering inner cities and thus also a large part of the identity in Germany.” According to the textile trade association, every second shop in inner cities is now a textile, fashion or leather goods store, in large cities the proportion is even 70 percent.
"For many, this is the reason to even go downtown," the association said in a thesis paper.
The industry is now demanding to be compensated in the same way as the gastronomy.
In addition, costs and depreciation of the goods would have to be included in the public bridging aid.
"The latest signals for simplified and improved help sound good," says association president Jost, but he also shows a certain skepticism about the implementation.
Announced help does not arrive
Because so far there has been "a huge gap" between announcements and actual help in the textile trade.
Aid in the current situation is economically much cheaper than the follow-up costs of a wave of bankruptcies for social systems and tax coffers.
The fashion industry also laments a lack of appreciation and perception - even for the time before Corona.
"So far there has been a lack of political and social acceptance of perceiving fashion as an important economic and cultural asset," says the study "Status Deutscher Mode" by the Fashion Council Germany and Oxford Economics, which is funded by the Ministry of Economics.
At the European level, Germany occupies second place among the largest fashion brand providers, just behind Italy, but ahead of France, Portugal and Spain. “Made in Germany” is a globally accepted seal of quality in the fashion industry, and German manufacturers are internationally recognized as reliable partners with strengths in the areas of sustainability, technology and innovation, especially in textile development.