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Keeping the shelves filled: Economic boom for Bonn food retailers

Keeping the shelves filled : Economic boom for Bonn food retailers

People in Bonn are buying more food than usual as a result of the coronavirus. Logistics and employees are reaching their limits and are doing everything they can to keep supplies flowing. But altogether, the situation in Bonn remains calm.

Doris Henseler has to come out from behind her counter again. It is a test of patience for the friendly lady who receives customers at the information desk of the Edeka-Markt Mohr.

At the checkouts, people are again getting too close to each other. There are black and yellow adhesive strips, which are supposed to remind people how far apart they need to stand, but they are overlooked. Or perhaps they are deliberately ignored, Henseler is not entirely certain. "I keep making announcements, pointing them out personally to people, but a short time later everything seems forgotten," she says.

The days with the coronavirus are nerve-racking and exhausting for retail employees. "What we are experiencing here is Christmas shopping times ten," says Christopher Mohr, who runs the Bornheimer Strasse branch. The store is full from morning to night.

"So crowded, the customers almost run over each other." Sales figures have doubled, and the Edeka warehouses are doing everything they can to keep up with demand. "This is an exceptional situation in every respect."

Mohr sits with his co-workers Murat Kilic and Thomas Brauer in the small office of the warehouse. The three of them have some quiet minutes in which they can talk about the past days. Kilic tells about employees who postpone their holidays in order to help out and provide support.

But they also have to put up with a lot when a shelf is empty again. "No one's been in a fight yet, but the atmosphere is tense.”

Shortly after that, the peace and quiet in the office is over. "Somebody's gotta do the shopping carts," it crackles from the two-way radios. "We've had them for a long time, but we're really beginning to appreciate them now," says Mohr. At the moment, quick communication is absolutely necessary because new situations arise all the time.

"Every hour we get some new information from the media, from authorities or even from Edeka," says Brauer. The idea of offering special shopping hours for older people who belong to the coronavirus risk group has just come up. "But how are we supposed to provide information about this? This should be done uniformly throughout Germany.”

Much of the store's operation has been geared up for the virus pandemic. All employees wear gloves. At the cash register, a saliva shield hangs from the ceiling. Employees make sure that customers and they themselves keep their distance. As of Saturday, there is a restriction on access: fewer entrances and a security service at the door. Some other stores in Bonn are already doing this, including the drugstore chain “dm”. The principle is simple: one out, one in. The guideline is 20 square meters of shop space per customer.

At Mohr, a personnel officer takes care of additional temporary staff; there are already more than a hundred employees. The warehouse can no longer be described as such: all that is delivered lands shortly afterwards in the shopping carts. Christopher Mohr has already had to find additional suppliers for pasta, because even Edeka's huge infrastructure can no longer keep up with the demand.

The situation is similar for toilet paper, flour and milk. In theory, there would be enough for everyone if no one was hoarding. "Meanwhile, we refill the shelves in waves so that customers coming home from work get some too." There are also quantity restrictions, with people being able to take just one pack of toilet paper.

One of those employees who keeps supplies on the shelves is Magdalene Rudner. A petite young woman, she looks tired. When a man in his 50’s asks her for noodles for a soup, she doesn't seem to mind. "I'm shopping for my mother-in-law, she's over 70, weak anyway and shouldn't go out anymore," the man says. Rudner can understand that very well. She offered her 83-year-old neighbor to do the shopping for her. "It's important that we look after each other now," she says.

Mohr knows what is being asked of his people right now. That is why he, like many other managers in Bonn, wants to refrain from the possibility of opening on Sundays. Raoul Schaefer-Groebel of the organic food store Momo considers the capacity limits of his employees to be exhausted. "We can't burden our staff any more." The supermarket chains Denn's, Mix-Markt and Bergfeld's also want to go easy on their employees - as do local butchers and beverage retailers. At Mohr, employees get free fruit and drinks, and working hours and breaks are flexible.

Motivation is important. "We're not working for the numbers now. They don't matter for now. We're working for society." However, there are also delicate situations. For example, when customers do not accept the purchasing restrictions or do not get what they wanted to buy. "But at the same time, we experience a lot of appreciation and understanding, we hear thank you so often."

(Orig. text: Nicolas Ottersbach, Abir Kassis / Translation: Carol Kloeppel)