DÜSSELDORF (dpa-AFX) - Insolvencies, sluggish consumer spending and moderate sales: The stationary retail trade in Germany is experiencing difficult times. Electronics retailer MediaMarktSaturn nevertheless intends to maintain its stores in the long term. "We are continuing to invest in city centers and will also be present there in the future. That's why we are always on the lookout for new locations," said Karsten Wildberger, CEO of Ceconomy and its subsidiary MediaMarktSaturn. The electronics chain has a good 400 stores in Germany with just under 20,300 employees.

For Wildberger, the debate about the lack of attractiveness of city centers is a "very German discussion". He sees many examples of successfully designed city centers in Italy and Spain. "In the Netherlands, this works very well in the retail sector, the city centers look great." Investments are made there in cleanliness, accessibility and good parking facilities. There is the right mix of stores and restaurants, many places to linger and a different mindset. This is just as possible in Germany. "We also have beautiful city centers, but often lack inspiration." Retailers and politicians are called upon to make them more attractive.

Wildberger is concerned about the renewed insolvency of Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof and expects this to have an impact on city centers if the department store chain is less present there. "I don't want to speculate on the reasons. Every company has to find the right way to reflect the change in customer behavior in its business model." In his own words, he does not expect Media-Markt and Saturn to suffer the same fate. "We have to offer customers what they are looking for on all channels. People have higher expectations today. We have to live up to that."

Stores renovated

The electronics retail chain had a lot of catching up to do, said Wildberger. He now sees the company in a good position. Investments have been made in staff training, half of the stores have been renovated and experience areas have been introduced. Customers could try out vacuum cleaners, no longer just look at coffee machines but also test them, and young people could play computer games in special areas. "We are offering customers an experience in the space and are seeing that this is being well received."

Wildberger does not believe that it will become more difficult to attract visitors to the stores. It is important to be able to look at products, try them out and compare them. "Customers often get much more information from a specialist advisor in the store than online." He relies on a cross-channel business model. The dovetailing of online and brick-and-mortar stores is working well. 38 percent of customers pick up the goods in the stores and then go shopping. Wildberger sees an advantage for his business segment: "Technology will increasingly influence people's lives. The trend is therefore very positive for us." At the same time, the need to find one's way in a complex world is increasing.

Wildberger is following the expansion of Chinese online stores such as Temu with interest. Many of the Asian companies rely heavily on social commerce. "They sell their products to very specific target groups via social networks such as TikTok and other platforms or use influencers. We can learn a lot from that." However, it must be ensured that all providers comply with European laws. "The implementation of regulations on import regulations, sustainability and supply chains must be guaranteed. We need the same rules of the game for everyone."/cr/DP/he