What happened to the sharing economy

Sharing undesirable : This is how the sharing economy is doing in the corona crisis

Sharing instead of owning - what a hype it was. According to a study by the consulting firm PwC, sales for the most important areas of the sharing economy should increase to around 335 billion dollars by 2025. But then Corona came. In times of contact restrictions, home office and strict hygiene rules so as not to be infected with the virus, providers like Airbnb, Uber and WeWork have a hard time. Shared spaces and cars were once much more popular.


According to the Federal Association of Carsharing, the numbers went down in March and April. In between, the cars were booked up to 80 percent less than in the previous year. An association spokeswoman said that the demand for shared vehicles has increased again since the relaxation. The situation remains critical for the providers.

Some have attracted new customers with discount offers and new business areas. According to its own statements, the VW subsidiary WeShare in Berlin has meanwhile even reached the previous year's level, and on the weekends it would even be higher. However, the company has postponed the planned expansion until next year. First of all, they want to "stabilize".

Berlin transport services such as Clevershuttle and the Berlkönig are also faced with massive losses in sales. At times they had to completely discontinue their offer to the public. For a few days now, pooling, in which several people share a vehicle and driver, has been possible again. But there are conditions, wearing a mask is mandatory. Because clubs and theaters are still closed, there is no night-time business. For the drivers, this means short-time work.

In contrast to the mobility providers Uber and Lyft in the USA, they are usually permanently employed in this country. It is unclear whether all new pooling providers will survive the crisis in the long term. The new coalition resolution on transport law, which is intended to create a legal basis for providers, could ease the situation. At the same time, investors are pulling out because they have gotten into financial difficulties themselves. The start-up Clevershuttle, which is majority owned by Deutsche Bahn, threatens to fall victim to Deutsche Bahn's austerity measures.


In recent years, a number of companies have rented floors in Berlin, London and New York, turned them into hip offices and made them available to others at a surcharge. Freelancers, smaller start-ups, creative teams from companies, digital nomads. Now the coworking space providers are faced with a dilemma: Customers cannot pay their rent due to financial hardship or they can terminate their flexible, short-term contracts. In addition, many are just experiencing that working from home also works well.

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The providers themselves enter into long-term rental contracts. So while your revenues are falling, the costs remain high. In a statement, the world-famous company WeWork stated that it had sufficient liquidity to meet the challenges of the corona crisis. But who knows how long it will last? At the same time, WeWork announced that after the layoffs last year, more jobs will be cut, including in Germany. The co-founder of the US office rental company, Miguel McKelvey, will leave the company later this month. WeWork was founded in 2010. At times it was the most valuable start-up in the USA.

"I'm afraid that not all spaces will survive the crisis," said Tobias Kollewe, board member of the Federal Association of Coworking Germany, the German press agency. "There will be an unwanted shakeout of the market." Operators in large cities are comparatively well positioned, as the workspaces that are shared with others have often existed there for years. “The further you go out into the country, the more critical it becomes,” believes Kollewe.


Boels rents out machines and tools in its own branches and from the Hornbach hardware store chain. "Of course we felt the crisis," says a spokeswoman. Especially in April. Shops have been temporarily closed in some countries. Hardware stores were allowed to open, but the rental service was restricted or not allowed. The company expects good business for the summer. "Many people stay at home and maybe do something in or around the house," says the spokeswoman. Employees would thoroughly clean and disinfect the devices. Returned machines are initially on the back of the shelf. "This creates a kind of quarantine period," says the spokeswoman. "Hopefully we have survived the worst in the short term."

If you don't have your own drill, you can get one from a machine in Berlin in some Spätis. The inventor of the toolbot is Jan Gerlach. Demand fell by half in March and recovered in April and May. When the hardware stores stopped the cutting and rental service, circular saws and jigsaws were even borrowed more often than before.

Because of the economic crisis, two investors have dropped out. "So we have a short-term liquidity problem," says Gerlach. "We haven't paid ourselves any salaries since March and we're getting into financial problems privately." But demand would develop very well. That's why the founder remains optimistic. In the long term, he believes that the expected recession will even have a positive effect on the sharing economy. In uncertain times, people are more open to trying new things. "In addition, people then shy away from investing in things that they do not know for sure whether they really need," says Jan Gerlach.


Booking your summer vacation now seems too risky for many. The federal government wants to lift travel warnings for EU countries from mid-June. But what happens if the pandemic worsens again? The housing brokers, especially Airbnb, are also feeling this uncertainty. Even after the outbreak of the corona virus, apartments were no longer allowed to be rented to tourists for weeks due to contact restrictions in numerous countries.

Business stood still in many places. An insider claims to have recently revealed to the US portal “The Information” that Airbnb is expecting a drop in sales of 54 percent to around 2.2 billion dollars this year. For Germany, too, observers speculated with significantly less income, although Airbnb does not comment on the numbers.

With a new strategy, however, the US company hopes to create the upswing. Airbnb now primarily wants to broker apartments that travelers can reach on a single tank of fuel. The principle: vacation at home. "We see that travelers now want to discover not only classic travel destinations in Germany such as the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, but also their immediate surroundings," says Airbnb Germany boss Kathrin Anselm.

The figures prove her right: In Germany, the number of nights booked in Germany rose by almost 60 percent in the first week of June compared to the same period in the previous year. And: The majority of Airbnb users have booked travel destinations that are no more than 320 kilometers away from their place of residence. Incidentally, the capital is one of the most popular destinations at the moment. In times of crisis, Berliners seem to be particularly fond of sharing - even if not without self-interest. Hosts keep up to 97 cents on every dollar they charge to rent their property on Airbnb.


Share food with others? Few people thought of that at the height of the corona crisis. Consumers hoarded all food instead of giving it away, restaurants and cafes were closed. And last but not least, the contact restrictions posed challenges for food rescuers. "The corona crisis makes it difficult to save food," says the Foodsharing initiative. It is now important to save excess food from rubbish. Restaurants still have fewer customers, and stores find it more difficult to calculate their number of customers. And that should mean a lot.

Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) took the corona crisis as an opportunity to start a petition. They are calling for legal barriers to food sharing to be removed. At the moment, grocers, restaurateurs or bakeries are still liable to buyers for possible harmful consequences for food donations. And those in turn are liable if they in turn distribute food to people in need.

"The corona pandemic also increases the uncertainty about safely passing on food," says the DUH. For many, the risk is too high. Nevertheless, the initiatives should be happy about the general trend. More than 75,000 helpers across Germany are now committed to food sharing alone.

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