Dutch shopping streets where a mouth shield obligation applies have lost more visitors in recent weeks than cities where that measure is not in force. For example, Rotterdam’s Lijnbaan attracted 31.5 percent fewer visitors and Amsterdam’s Kalverstraat 32.1 percent fewer passers-by, concludes consultancy RMC.
In both places there is since the beginning of this month an obligation to wear a mouth cap. By way of comparison: in the centre of Utrecht – where this obligation does not apply – the number of visitors fell by more than 23 percent.
“The heat caused the number of visitors in large cities to drop. But like in Amsterdam and Rotterdam it got nowhere”, says Huib Lubbers of RMC. The measurement was done in the first two weeks of the oral cap obligation, the numbers were compared with the number of passers-by in the previous ten days.
According to industry association INretail, the situation is leading to sales decreases of up to 40 percent and the situation in the two cities is back to the “dramatic level” of three months ago. The obligation to wear a mouth shield, in both cases a local experiment, runs until August 31.
The decline in turnover may be partly due to visitors staying away after the RIVM advice on 4 August not to go to busy areas, says the sector club. “In addition to the mouthguard obligation, that definitely plays a role. Entrepreneurs have noticed this directly in their turnover development”, says Paul te Grotenhuis. He says that in the mouthguard areas the turnover decreased even more.
Kalverstraat wanted mouth caps
The mouthguard obligation, which applies in the shopping areas to everyone aged 13 and over, leads to concerns among shopkeepers, although in the case of Amsterdam’s Kalverstraat they asked for it themselves at the end of July. “We’d rather not, of course, but we don’t see any other option,” said street manager Pauline Buurma at the time on behalf of the shopkeepers. “Otherwise the proposal would come from the municipality to close off the street partially or completely in case of crowds and that would cause enormous financial damage to the shopkeepers.”
That’s what’s happening now. An organisation of shopkeepers and pan owners in Rotterdam sent a letter of fire to the municipality this week. And an Amsterdam entrepreneur and Virus Truth protest group instituted summary proceedings in Amsterdam against the security region, but lost the case
Entrepreneurs on the Lijnbaan say that the public is moving away to the surrounding shopping areas. Unfair competition, says Aartjan de Bruin, owner of a clothing store in the Rotterdam shopping street.
“All opportunities need to be addressed to curb corona, that’s the most important thing. I just don’t think you can give one area a mouth capping obligation and another one a mouth capping obligation. Certainly not in the Randstad where cities are close together,” says De Bruin. “That leads to unfair competition, because people just drive on and then they’re in a city where they can shop without a hood.”
Analist Gertjan Slob of research agency Locatus has no figures, but calls it logical that people go shopping elsewhere. “If you erect barriers at one place and ten minutes later those barriers are not there, then that’s plausible. That is annoying for entrepreneurs in certain places, but this happens more in the corona crisis: think of the shopping street versus the internet.”
Also the Rotterdam Urban Department Store sees that people choose other cities. “Many companies with more branches see their turnover decrease here, while it is increasing elsewhere”, says Dominique van Elsacker. “This is disastrous. Retailers are being hit hard. I hear about 30 percent fewer visitors, but also higher numbers. In terms of turnover, I also hear that order of magnitude.”
According to Van Elsacker, it can’t be that the bill for this measure lies with the retailer. “Entrepreneurs understand that additional measures will be taken, but that includes a financial package. The damage now lies entirely with them. It’s only in Rotterdam and Amsterdam now, but it may be twenty places in a while. Then you can’t expect it to be solved locally.”
The municipality of Rotterdam says in a reaction not to abandon the mouthguard obligation as long as the local experiment lasts. The decision of the court in Amsterdam that the obligation does not have to be abolished, reinforces the municipality’s view, says a spokesperson.
“The municipality is very sympathetic to entrepreneurs. We are therefore looking for ways to increase the number of visitors. After this period we will evaluate the effect of the mouth caps. This experiment will be valid until the end of this month, which can be overlooked.”