The ANWR Group, which is also the parent company of Sport 2000 in Germany and three other countries, has obtained a court verdict in Bavaria that allows its own 19 Schuh Mücke shoe shops to open their doors in the state as of April 1, despite a nationwide retail lockdown, because the sale of shoes is an “essential” service. Asked to confirm a report in Schuhkurier, the company stressed that it was not an April’s Fool Day joke.

The court’s decision is applicable for the moment to any other shoe shop in Bavaria. ANWR, which is also the largest cooperative of independent shoe retailers in Germany, will try to obtain similar court rulings based on similar arguments for shoe stores and well as sporting goods stores all over Germany, where non-essential retailing has been locked down for more than six months because of the Covid-19 pandemic. They can only stay open in states where the infection level is relatively low.

According to Schuhkurier, ANWR had first asked a local court to rule in Schuh Mücke’s favor in February, but its request was denied. Following an appeal, the court’s judges concluded that shoe stores perform an “essential” activity for the population like bookstores and other types of shops that have been exempted from the lockdowns.

In their March 31 ruling, the judges argue that the provision of fitting shoes, which cannot be done over the internet, is necessary for many professional activities as well as the preservation of healthy body functions and sports activities performed outdoors. It is particularly important for children and young adults as their feet have not stopped growing.

The Bavarian court decision is a further element in support of arguments raised by sporting goods retailers in other countries, including France and Switzerland, that they should stay open because they perform an essential activity for the health and wellbeing of the population.

French authorities promise extra aid

France’s Union Sport & Cycle (USC), which represents both vendors and retailers of sporting goods and bicycles, raised this argument again in a letter sent to French President Emmanuel Macron, where it also noted that the financial aid that its retail members received last year to compensate for the temporary closure of their shops represented only between 5 and 7 percent of their turnover.

President Macron announced yesterday that the lockdown measures recently implemented in the Paris region and other parts of France will be extended after Easter to the whole country, covering also the school sector until the end of April. He stated that there will be no change in the list of retailers being exempted from the lockdowns, which includes bookstores as well as hairdressers.

To sweeten the pill, the French government announced few days ago that it was setting aside a new €200 million package of non-refundable grants for 35,000 fashion and footwear stores as well as leathergoods and sporting goods stores, in view of the fact that they sell seasonal merchandise that can age quickly. UCI’s executive director, Virgile Caillet, said he was pleased that sporting goods stores have been included for the first time in such an aid package, whose details still need to be ironed out.

French authorities also confirmed that the schedule for clearance sales may be modified, if necessary, but indicated that there will likely be no tax breaks for excess stocks. Such a measure is being contemplated in Germany, but French officials have reportedly deemed it to be too complex to implement. Caillet said he was still hopeful that the French government will make concessions for the depreciation of surplus inventories.

As previously reported, the French government has been allowed by the European Commission to subsidize operators of ski facilities, which have been forced to shut down since the beginning of December.