Regional currencies should help retailers in times of crisis

Status: December 18, 2021 9:30 a.m.

While the profits of online retailers are growing steadily, many small shops in city centers fear for their economic existence. Regional currencies should change that.

Sebastian Legatz ‘perfumery is conveniently located in the center of Oranienburg in Brandenburg. The shop window is decorated with attention to detail, in the shop the old wooden shelves are filled to the ceiling with fragrance bottles. Perfume has been sold here for 90 years – and Legatz makes every effort to keep it that way.

In the second year of the pandemic, however, his business is no exception: it is suffering. Many customers buy from competitors on the Internet. To support the retail trade in the city, Oranienburg introduced the “Oranientaler” – a thick copper coin, the small local currency.

Support for the city center

Stefan Wiesjahn proposed the “Oranientaler” as the person responsible for the “shopping street management” of the city – long before the pandemic. As early as 2018, the metal voucher should be an incentive to shop locally. In 2021, the idea was reactivated under pandemic conditions. Customers had until mid-November to shop in the 35 participating shops.

“You have to collect the receipts,” explains Wiesjahn. “If you’ve made a total turnover of at least 100 euros, then I will give you two Orange Thalers worth ten euros each.” These can then be used to go shopping in the shops.

360 of the 1000 existing thalers are already in circulation. The city is investing 20,000 euros in the program – although half of the funding goes into advertising and the production of the thalers itself. The “Oranientaler”, says perfumery operator Legatz, can “motivate people to go shopping in the city, the shops here in Maybe to rediscover Oranienburg again. ”

Pandemic exacerbates existing problems

The corona pandemic with its lockdowns only made one problem more visible that had plagued retailers long before, says Alexander Laesicke, Oranienburg’s non-party mayor. The more people order goods online, the worse it is for local retailers. There is a great risk “that the cities will simply bleed out and deserted,” says Laesicke. Customers would “forget how to go downtown. We have to deal with that”.

Retail growth

In fact, the German trade association is even assuming slight sales growth for the retail sector. The association forecast an increase of 1.5 percent for the current year – very manageable compared to the 26.6 percent increase in sales in online retail in the first half of the year alone.

And in the current Christmas business, the difference is even greater. Before the holidays last year, according to the Ifo Institute, online sales increased by 250 percent compared to the level before the pandemic. The data suggested, said the head of the Ifo Center for Industrial Organization and New Technologies, Oliver Falck, “that the crisis is driving the death of inner cities”.

An idea makes the rounds

Regional currencies like the “Oranientaler” are supposed to stop dying – in Oranienburg and in many other cities in Germany. For example, there is the Augsburg Lechtaler, the Elbtaler in Dresden, the Chiemgauer in Chiemgau as the largest regional currency to date with one million units in circulation and the Bremen Roland as the oldest regional currency. It has been possible to pay with it in Bremen since 2001, and now even cashless.

None of these concepts can compensate for the losses caused by online trading and the pandemic. André Forster also trades with “Oranientalers” in his Oranienburg sports shop. “The bringing in won’t happen,” he says. The pandemic losses “nobody will bring them back in.” After all, the Orange native is helping “to look positively into the future now”.

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