. People with protective face masks walk at Kurfurstendamm shopping boulevard, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Berlin, Germany, December 5, 2020. /Fabrizio Bensch/File PhotoBERLIN A surge in coronavirus cases in Germany has led to a disappointing start to the Christmas season for retailers in Europe's biggest economy, the sector body said on Sunday. A survey by the HDE retail association showed that only 20% of 350 companies asked were satisfied with Christmas sales so far. November and December are normally the strongest months of the year for retailers "The retail sector managed to defy increasingly difficult conditions, including higher inflation, rising infection numbers and supply bottlenecks until November," said HDE Managing Director Stefan Genth. "However, the consequences of the dramatic worsening of the coronavirus crisis have hit the retail trade in the past week," he added. Controls in shops, such as checks of vaccination certificates, were putting customers off, said Genth, adding he wanted fewer restrictions in shops as masks and air filters were effective. Earlier this month, the HDE said it expected Christmas sales to rise 2% from last year to 111.7 billion euros. Germany is struggling to contain a fourth wave of the coronavirus with 44,401 new cases registered on Sunday, according to the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases. Two confirmed cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in southern Germany and more than 100,000 people have died with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in Germany.