German sports retailer Udo Siebzehnrübl has caused a stir with an open letter to Bavarian trade associations. He will open his five Intersport stores in Altötting, Pasing, Passau, Riem and Rosenheim on January 11 despite the shutdown in Germany – come what may. In an interview with our sister publication TextilWirtschaft, he explains what moves him and what he expects from the action.

Mr. Siebzehnrübl, what are you calling for?
We want to open up as soon as possible. That's what it's all about. And I would never have dared to dream of the media response my open letter would receive. And that was exactly what I wanted. After all, I'm not allowed to actively ask other retailers to do the same. In any case, I directly invited all media representatives to come to us on Monday and report on what will happen then.

What do you think will happen?
First of all, I still hope that we will all be allowed to open on Monday. Seeing the waves our action is already making, I would like to see the politicians react quickly as well. We simply want to reopen – in compliance with all safety and hygiene concepts. We are not spoiling for a fight, and we're behaving sensibly.

So it's a symbolic action?
Well, there is no blueprint. We'll see.

In spring 2020, during the first shutdown, the authorities stepped in when there were violations.
Of course, I don't like the fine we'll probably have to pay. But we've already blown a seven-figure sum – so it's worth it to us. I just hope that I can find as many imitators as possible. When I see the Aldi brochure for this week, with eight pages of sporting goods, it's simply a mega injustice that they are allowed to sell that and we are not. The situation for us is really precarious and we run the risk of losing our customers to Amazon & Co. and then not being able to keep our employees either.

How much do you sell online via the Intersport platform?
We doubled our online sales last year to 10% of total sales. But 90% will fall away with the closure. And we're not making any money.

With your action, you run the risk of being put in a corner with pandemic deniers.
I'm not a pandemic denier, nor am I a right-wing radical – I just want to open up so that we can keep our customers and our employees.

[NOTE: The original version of this article has been published 04 January 2021 on]