European Commissioner Thierry Breton (Internal Market and Industry) has been talking to various industries about their challenges and what the Commission should do to address them during the crisis and afterwards. Representatives of our sector, including our President, Thomas Nonn, and Board member Hans Carpels from Euronics, were invited to an exclusive video call on 21 April which focused specifically on the impact on non-food retail and wholesale. The Commissioner praised food retail and the role it has played in fulfilling the essential function of feeding people. He highlighted the Commission’s actions to help companies and keep the single market open (‘green lanes’).
EuroCommerce presented the differentiated impact that the crisis has on the sector: while the food sector is coping relatively well, the non-food sector but also the food wholesale sector are in ‘survival mode’. Four key measures would be needed to aid the retail sector:
- the ECB should foresee more liquidity to ensure the survival of large and small companies, credit insurers should not change their ratings of companies during the crisis;
- re-opening in a coordinated, non-discriminatory way;
- keeping the Single Market open;
- a Marshall plan for consumption should be set up to stimulate demand and facilitate the recovery (considering that private consummation makes up 50% of GDP).
Other participants raised points relating to the availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the possibility of VAT waivers to stimulate consumption, the need for more flexible labour laws/opening hours for a successful recovery, and the need to support upskilling and re-skilling for the digital transformation of SMEs.