GShops closed, orders canceled, short-time work – the lockdown has now lasted four months. For many, this is associated with ever greater financial losses.
Around 28 percent of consumers now assume that they will even have to adjust their existing loan obligations in the next six months. This was the result of a representative survey by the credit agency Schufa, which WELT is exclusively available to. This concern is even greater among the younger generation. 39 percent expect that they will soon need rate changes or deferrals.
Those affected now have hopes primarily in the goodwill of their bank. More than 50 percent of those surveyed stated that they would rely on their institute to be accommodating if they could no longer service their loan obligations as planned due to the corona pandemic.
“We have a stable credit system in Germany, and consumer confidence in their bank as a reliable partner is high, even in times of crisis,” says Schufa board member Ole Schröder.
And yet rate adjustments and deferrals of consumer loans or mortgage lending are unlikely to be as easy as they were last spring. From April to June 2020, a statutory moratorium gave consumers the opportunity to suspend the installments for interest and repayment payments – if they got into payment difficulties due to the pandemic.
The term of the loans was usually extended by the deferred period. However, the moratorium was hardly used by consumers, as a survey by Finanzberatung FMH shows. Accordingly, deferrals in mortgage lending did not even affect an average of two percent of the total volume, while it was 2.3 percent for consumer loans. By the end of 2020, some banks had also participated in a voluntary moratorium.
Banks such as ING, DKB or Commerzbank continue to promise a remedy if consumers get into payment difficulties due to the Corona crisis. However, many institutes keep a low profile on the details. ING first requests all information such as the reason for the payment problem and a completed self-assessment by email in order to then propose a solution to its customers.
Poor households have concerns about the future
The DKB advertises with an “individual rate break”. And the savings banks point out that the conditions for rate or term adjustments are handled very differently. Customers should ask the respective consultant what options they have, it says.
The consumer experts from the advice portal Finanztip explain that the financial burden is temporarily reduced in the event of deferrals or lower repayments. But in many cases the loan will end up being more expensive than originally planned – because interest is usually added.
If you want to know how much interest there will be for the deferred payments, multiply the interest costs for the last month by the number of months in which the installments are deferred. On top of that there would be compound interest. “With an installment loan, the sums are lower, with a construction loan it can be a little more,” says Finanztip.
However, not everyone is equally affected by the renewed worries that they will soon no longer be able to service loans. This is also shown by the Schufa survey. “We see that a social gap is opening in the Corona crisis,” says Schufa board member Schröder.
Low-income households would not only have greater worries about the future and fear of financial loss than high-income households. “You also have to access reserves much more often,” explains Schröder.
Younger people carry the greater burden in lockdown
According to the survey, the proportion of 18 to 25-year-olds who are worried or even very afraid of the future has risen again compared to November 2020 – and is now 51 percent (instead of 39 percent in November). Low-income households with a net income of less than EUR 2,000 also have significantly more fear of the future (64 percent) than households with an income of more than EUR 4,000 (35 percent).
But there is also good news: “Overall, German consumers are still getting through the Corona crisis economically well.” There is currently no increase in payment defaults, explains Schröder, referring to the figures from the credit agency.
Their own job is assessed as largely secure, and the financial situation of most households has not deteriorated. Because at the same time, consumers were able to save significantly more due to the lockdown.
A good half of Germans spent less money on clothing in February, and more than one in four reduced their spending on books or electronics. And because trips and visits to restaurants have hardly been possible since November, expenses for three out of four consumers have also fallen drastically.
After the pandemic, consumer demand is likely to explode
Numerous households are therefore likely to emerge financially stronger from the crisis. Only 34 percent had to use the savings to make up for a lack of income.
Experts like Marco Atzberger attribute the setting aside to the unclear perspectives. “Because of the uncertain economic situation, many consumers saved up during the corona pandemic,” says the retail expert from the EHI Retail Institute. According to the Schufa survey, 39 percent of consumers postponed large planned purchases in February.
From Atzberger’s point of view, consumer demand is likely to pick up significantly if trade is reopened and the pandemic situation improves. This is also due to a psychological effect: “At the same time, consumers want to reward themselves for their discipline in lockdown,” says Atzberger.
What could consumers be targeting in particular? Small rewards, says Atzberger, such as jewelry or clothing. The retail expert therefore does not consider short-term bottlenecks to be ruled out, especially at small textile retailers. It is questionable whether they were able to order a comprehensive summer range due to the liquidity problems caused by the lockdown.
The expert gives further reasons: “Because the opening prospects are still completely unclear, small retailers are likely to have bought more sparingly.” In addition, there could be another rush for bicycles. “The first lockdown in the spring of last year showed that the demand for bicycles has skyrocketed,” says Atzberger.
Theresa Schleicher, retail expert at Zukunftsinstitut, a team of researchers and consultants from Frankfurt am Main, sees another post-crisis winner: the so-called well-being area, i.e. beauty and cosmetics items. “During the crisis and the lockdown, we took great care of the community, with the opening we will pay more attention to the expression of our own personality”, predicts Schleicher.
But spending on socializing and outdoor products would also rise sharply again. Furniture, with which many consumers have already beautified their homes in lockdown, would recede into the background.
However, it is still completely unclear when the retail trade will open again nationwide – and when consumers could storm into the shops with their savings. In any case, most of them are not particularly resourceful in the meantime: According to the Schufa survey, 49 percent of crisis savers have their money in their savings accounts.
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