A Feeling of Emptiness

The retail sector has taken a beating this year, with lockdowns and enforced closures. The number of bankruptcies is soaring. Many stores, especially small ones, are not expected to survive the pandemic.

Living in Sulzburg I knew that intellectually, but it hadn’t really hit home. Our stores haven’t been hurt.

That may be because there isn’t much retail. There’s a miniscule grocery store, a small stationery store, a couple of banks, an optician, a hair stylist and a few restaurants. Maybe I’ve missed a couple – the only two I frequent are the grocery store and the stationery shop. They are doing fine.

Due to COVID restrictions I haven’t been to Freiburg, the nearest city, for a couple of months. The idea of wearing face masks outdoors on the streets doesn’t appeal to me, so I have avoided the place. (Canadians note – this may be coming where you are too. It is the logical next step to your lockdown.)

So the retail crisis was something I knew about intellectually, but it hadn’t sunk in – until I was at Frankfurt airport. One of Europe’s busiest places was a virtual ghost town.

Retailers in the city, if they are allowed to be open, can hope that there will still be some customers who wander by. In airports though, with almost no flights, there aren’t many people walking by the stores.

Which means many are shut down. In Frankfurt, in Montreal, In Ottawa, the number of closed stores was larger than the number open. When there are no flights there are no customers. You don’t go to the airport to shop like you would with a mall.

No-one knows what the future holds for air travel, when the public will feel safe to return to airports. Or, in some cases like Canada, when the government will allow its citizens to travel again. We’re told the chances are slim that you will contract coronavirus on a plane, but that isn’t the only factor involved.

Canada’s multi-billion dollar tourism industry has been devastated. People aren’t allowed into the country. But that’s a topic for a future post perhaps.

Today though I am thinking of all the people who work in the various retail outlets at airports. Yes, prices always seem high, but browsing what is on offer is one way to ease the tedium of waiting for a flight.

Not these days though. They have lost their jobs, through no fault of their own.

And not in the near future. I suspect it will be a while before airport stores open again.

Don’t you wish things would get back to normal soon?

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