May 14, 2020 / 8:09 AM / 13 days ago

UPDATE 1-Good demand in Germany, Italy as Ceconomy stores reopen

* Pent-up demand drives sales in early days of reopening

* Shopper traffic still not back to normal

* Consumer spending set to stay depressed for some time

* Demand strong for home office, schooling, entertainment products

* Ceconomy ready for consolidation opportunities (Adds details, background)

BERLIN, May 14 (Reuters) - Ceconomy has seen a promising catch-up of demand, particularly in Germany and Italy, as it has reopened stores that were closed in March due to the coronavirus crisis, Europe’s biggest consumer electronics chain said on Thursday.

“We have seen people queuing up to get into the stores,” Chief Executive Bernhard Duettmann told analysts, adding that stores that had reopened had recorded high sales in the first few days due to pent-up demand.

Ceconomy, which runs 1,000 Media Markt and Saturn stores in 13 markets in Europe, said on Wednesday that 92% of its stores have now reopened, with Turkey the only country where stores are still shut for now.

The average amount each person is buying is rising, although shopper traffic in stores is not yet back to levels seen before the crisis and spending could remain depressed for some time, MediaMarktSaturn Chief Executive Ferran Reverter said.

“There has been some promising catch-up of sales in Germany and Italy, but it is too early to assess the scope of the demand,” he said.

“We expect consumer spend to be lower than before the crisis, that may be the case for a significant period of time.”

The company said demand was strong particularly for products for home office, home entertainment and home schooling.

Even with the stores back open, the group still expects online sales to grow fast to account for up to 20% of the total this year, up from 15% in the last quarter of 2019.

Reverter noted that new customer registration for its site had tripled in the last few weeks.

Ceconomy, which owns a 24% stake in French peer Fnac Darty , said the coronavirus crisis could accelerate consolidation in the market and it was ready for opportunities to grab more market share, Reverter said. (Reporting by Emma Thomasson Editing by Michelle Martin)

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