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Europa-Galerie Saarbrücken. Credit: ECE

ECE intends to reopen two thirds of all its German centers as of April 20

Since the German federal government announced the first loosening of restrictions for retail last Wednesday, there was some confusion as to how the new rules apply to shopping centers.

Particularly Bavarian Premier Markus Söder caused irritation when he said that the loosening of restrictions shall not apply to stores in shopping centers. The federal government’s subsequently published set of rules also does not reference malls explicitly. Now, almost all decisions made by individual federal states have been published.

Hamburg’s ECE, by far the biggest center operator in Germany, is represented in all federal states and has compiled the results. According to their findings, shops with less than 800 sq m are allowed to open in the following twelve states: Baden-Wuerttemberg, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Hesse, NRW, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Schleswig-Holstein. There are two individual regional specifics: reopenings in Brandenburg may begin on April 22 (Wednesday). In Saxony, only stores in malls that have their own exits towards the outside are allowed to reopen, and this applies to almost none of the centers. The company operates approximately three quarters of its 100 centers in these states.

In theory, cities and municipalities in said states may circumvent state-level regulations or declare shutdowns. However, no such case has yet occurred, according to one of ECE’s spokespeople. Explicitly exempt from these loosened restrictions, according to ECE, are shopping centers in Berlin and Saarland. The situation in Thuringia and Bavaria is still unclear. However, stores with up to 800 sq m are not allowed to reopen there anyway until April 27.

The company’s spokesperson believes that all of ECE’s centers will make use of these extended options and reopen on Monday. “However, it is entirely possible that some stores will not be able to reopen by Monday morning.” The goal is to manage operator obligations, which are standard practice in lease agreements, “flexibly”. It is to be expected that most center operators will follow ECE’s example and gradually reopen smaller stores in their centers starting next week.