Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Berlin Merchants Find Gold in Old Money ; as Germans Pinch Pfennigs, Retailers Lure Shoppers to Stores by Accepting the Discarded Deutsche Mark

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Berlin Merchants Find Gold in Old Money ; as Germans Pinch Pfennigs, Retailers Lure Shoppers to Stores by Accepting the Discarded Deutsche Mark

Article excerpt

All week the customers came, some carrying piggy banks, others toting plastic bags and even nylon stockings full of money that was suddenly spendable again.

The deutsche mark had returned.

Out of issue since Germany switched to the euro along with 12 other countries last January, the d mark is being revived temporarily in campaigns to spur consumer spending as the economy flags. Other efforts include a bill before parliament to loosen regulations on store hours, giving Germans an extra four hours to shop on Saturdays and two additional hours on weekday mornings.

The C&A retail chain began taking marks at its 185 department stores on Nov. 30, following a similar experiment by merchants in a northern town. Hundreds of thousands of Germans nationwide are now taking the chance to spend their last handfuls of marks, which stores and many banks stopped accepting at the end of February.

In the first week of the old currency's comeback at C&A, purchases in marks accounted for about 10 percent of national sales, says a spokesman for the chain, and increasing overall sales figures prompted the retailer to extend the program through Dec. 24.

"I think it's worth doing again," says Berlin customer Marian Mahlow after buying clothing using 13 marks ($6.80) she found in winter-coat pockets and her daughter's piggy bank. "I'm sure if I look again, I'll find some more."

At another counter, Anja Marciani carefully stacks 155 deutsche marks ($80) - in change - as other customers wait behind her with a patience remarkable during the Christmas shopping season. "I think it's all there," says Ms. Marciani, as the cashier begins recounting the coins.

Many Germans have curtailed buying amid fears of recession and a perception that the euro has made things more expensive.

Consumer spending in November tied an all-time low set last year, according to GfK, a consumer research institute in Nuremberg.

Economists forecast that stores will do 6 billion euros less business this Christmas than last. Many stores have already reported 70 percent lower sales volume this December than at the same time last year, according to Germany's retailer association. …

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