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Classic department store?

Messages
10,675
Location
Germany
You all know, that I like classic department store.

And I think, it's clear, that the old fashioned department store got no more connection to the youth, today. In Germany, Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof is now the very last dinosaur and surely means something only to our retirees and even only to them, which still live in the 90s!

It's interesting and I got the question to you older.:
When did department store lost the connection to the youngsters? When it stopped to be "trendy" along the youngsters?

When I think about Germany, I would bet, it was trendy until the 70s, maximum mid 80s.

In the 90s, after reunification, we kids were all "snapped" by the new and smaller suburban shopping centers, the electronics chain stores (!) and the mail-order catalogs, woohoo! ;)
The last dinosaurs Karstadt, Hertie, Kaufhof and Horten didn't mean anything to us kids. And the older said, that they already started to reduce their "departments" in the 80s.
 

tonyb

I'll Lock Up
Messages
9,823
Location
My mother's basement
The pandemic has just poured a little more fuel on the fire consuming so much of “traditional” retailing. It’s going (gone) online to an increasing degree.

There is a romance to being in a downtown retail district on a crisp December evening when the stores are all bedecked in their holiday bling and the Salvation Army bell ringers are out in force and the hot-buttered rum awaits at the 211 Bar. But really, Joe Mistyeye, how many of us actually do that anymore?

The survival of the grand department store as we’ve known it may hinge on it offering something other than just shopping. I wouldn’t know what that might be, but I’m confident that ideas are bouncing around in the heads of executives and marketers and the like.
 
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Haversack

One Too Many
Messages
1,192
Location
Clipperton Island
I remember the big Karstadt in Nürnberg was still doing business in 1999 when I was last in Germany. And in Spain the department store chain El Corte Inglés was busy in several cities in 2018. The big one in Sevilla not only had a busy supermarket in the basement but also had a couture department on the top floor that reminded me of the old City of Paris in San Francisco. (That might be an outlier as Sevillians tend to dress well). Still, I too regret the passing of the downtown cathedrals of retail. They were something more than just a place buy stuff.
 
Messages
10,675
Location
Germany
In Germany, they got no idea how to save the offline stores of Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof. The ship is sinking since the early 90s. They do, what everyone thought to be happen. They "downsize/shake-out" it. In the first insolvency of 2020, they downsized to 137 stores.
Now, they really got a public credit of 460 million EUR. Loaded on a sinking ship.
 

MisterCairo

I'll Lock Up
Messages
6,946
Location
Gads Hill, Ontario
"Department stores? One reads of such things of course...".

Jeeves.

Seriously, in Canada we now have exactly one chain, the Hudson Bay Company, and that is struggling. One of the oldest companies in the world, and the pandemic is hurting it massively.

Sears closed in Canada, Target failed, Eaton's and Simpsons gone, and several smaller chains now history as well.

I would say the rot started in the 90s, when malls began to lose lustre, and the department stores as the anchors started dropping, becoming either low end discounters or automotive or hardware superstores.
 

dlite90

Familiar Face
Messages
92
I studied this phenomenon (in USA) a lot because I work in real estate.
Over 1/3 of American malls are closing, already a trend before the pandemic.
Macy’s wants to turn their Manhattan headquarters into an office skyscraper and sell the real estate because department stores are doing so poorly (they would keep the store on the bottom obviously).

In my hometown, we have turned a vacant downtown department store into a lively mixed-use facility with apartments on the top and local restaurants on the bottom. It was a great way to preserve our history and help the downtown economy. However, you can’t do that with an American mall because it’s just a giant blank building with no windows. It’s extremely hard to find adaptive reuse for such a structure (ironically, an abandoned mall in my hometown is being converted into an Amazon distribution center).

I think the future of American retail is not in malls or department stores with retail chains, but walkable downtown areas with local stores. Especially because American cities have massively expanded their transit/bike lane infrastructure in the last 10 years.
My parents’ suburb has a nice downtown area (very uncommon for American suburbs) and it’s full of local retailers which have fared well through the pandemic.

American malls which have stayed open, have mainly managed to do so by exchanging their higher-end retailers for cheaper ones. So malls are not nearly as appealing these days.
 

LizzieMaine

Bartender
Messages
30,912
Location
Where The Tourists Meet The Sea
We had one here until the early '90s, a big four-story building in the middle of Main Street with the hand-operated elevator and the whole bit. Ladies' wear on the ground floor, men's and kidswear, second floor, household goods, third floor, and furniture on the top. It survived the arrival of "shopping plazas" and discount stores in the 60s and 70s, but when Wal-Mart hit town in 1993, that was all she wrote. I'm still bitter.
 

Turnip

Call Me a Cab
Messages
2,470
Location
Europe
I think those department stores serving an upper end product range, like KaDeWe, Galleries Lafayette..., will survive the carnage because they clearly keep distance to those typical city mall shops with their lower ranging (and priced) assortments they couldn’t compete with anyway.

An equivalent to, or modern version of department stores appear the outlet cities to be to me.
 
Messages
10,675
Location
Germany
I think those department stores serving an upper end product range, like KaDeWe, Galleries Lafayette..., will survive the carnage because they clearly keep distance to those typical city mall shops with their lower ranging (and priced) assortments they couldn’t compete with anyway.

Yeah, but the question is, if KaDeWe, Oberpollinger and Alsterhaus (all Signa Premium) would survive, if they wouldn't be the international "tourist attraction" for Fur-Russians :D, that they are now.

I personally see only one chance for the "normal" people's department stores:
Back to the total full-sortiment department store, they were back in the 70s/early 80s (?).

The old slogan: "All under one roof!"

Karstadt closed their entertainment electronics section finally in 2012. So Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof is now still focused on fashion, accesoires, drugstore goods, hardware, toys, electric devices, boxspring beds, sweets, a little literature and the now indoor travel office.
 

tonyb

I'll Lock Up
Messages
9,823
Location
My mother's basement
The mall nearest our house is a good place to get a milkshake or a burger, and, maybe, witness some gun play. Youngsters go there to hang out and get into fights, which occasionally turn deadly. The mall happens to share a parking lot with that multiplex cinema where several people got shot dead during that midnight showing of a Batman movie a few years back, aka “the Aurora theater shooting.”

It wouldn’t surprise me if that mall went belly up entirely before long.

On the other hand, there’s a smaller, much closer to downtown mall that seems to be doing okay. It’s in a far tonier district and has several high-end (very) stores. To the north of it is a few square blocks of similarly spendy stores (Hermès, West Elm, DWR) and boutique-y little shops and restaurants and bars and such. And it’s all within walking distance of some of the priciest residential property in the region.
 
Last edited:

Turnip

Call Me a Cab
Messages
2,470
Location
Europe
That „what would if“ is no question for me, couldn’t see the sense, sorry.
And I see no chance for those „normal people“ department stores to survive.
 
Last edited:
Messages
10,675
Location
Germany
We had one here until the early '90s, a big four-story building in the middle of Main Street with the hand-operated elevator and the whole bit. Ladies' wear on the ground floor, men's and kidswear, second floor, household goods, third floor, and furniture on the top. It survived the arrival of "shopping plazas" and discount stores in the 60s and 70s, but when Wal-Mart hit town in 1993, that was all she wrote. I'm still bitter.

Yeah, you mentioned a good point!
We have similar Walmart-like "Supermarkets" in Germany, and in their last evolutionary step, they got so much stuff, that no one remembers department stores.
Even our 2013s relaunched smalltown Rewe market got many useful things.
 

Harp

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,508
Location
Chicago, IL US
In Germany, they got no idea how to save the offline stores of Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof. The ship is sinking since the early 90s. They do, what everyone thought to be happen. They "downsize/shake-out" it. In the first insolvency of 2020, they downsized to 137 stores.

I used the American PX at Rhein Main's US Air Force Base, punched my liquor and tobacco ration cards
then sold booze and cigarettes on the Frankfurt black market. Bacardi Rum as I recall was a popular brand.
 
Last edited:

tonyb

I'll Lock Up
Messages
9,823
Location
My mother's basement
I studied this phenomenon (in USA) a lot because I work in real estate.
Over 1/3 of American malls are closing, already a trend before the pandemic.
Macy’s wants to turn their Manhattan headquarters into an office skyscraper and sell the real estate because department stores are doing so poorly (they would keep the store on the bottom obviously).

In my hometown, we have turned a vacant downtown department store into a lively mixed-use facility with apartments on the top and local restaurants on the bottom. It was a great way to preserve our history and help the downtown economy. However, you can’t do that with an American mall because it’s just a giant blank building with no windows. It’s extremely hard to find adaptive reuse for such a structure (ironically, an abandoned mall in my hometown is being converted into an Amazon distribution center).

I think the future of American retail is not in malls or department stores with retail chains, but walkable downtown areas with local stores. Especially because American cities have massively expanded their transit/bike lane infrastructure in the last 10 years.
My parents’ suburb has a nice downtown area (very uncommon for American suburbs) and it’s full of local retailers which have fared well through the pandemic.

American malls which have stayed open, have mainly managed to do so by exchanging their higher-end retailers for cheaper ones. So malls are not nearly as appealing these days.

I can see mall properties in many places becoming warehouses and distribution centers. Suburban shopping malls are usually located near limited access highways (easy freeway access!), which is a huge plus in the logistics biz.
 

dlite90

Familiar Face
Messages
92
The mall nearest our house is a good place to get a milkshake or a burger, and, maybe, witness some gun play. Youngsters go there to hang out and get into fights, which occasionally turn deadly. The mall happens to share a parking lot with that multiplex cinema where several people got shot dead during that midnight showing of a Batman movie a few years back, aka “the Aurora theater shooting.”

It wouldn’t surprise me if that mall went belly up entirely before long.

On the other hand, there’s a smaller, much closer to downtown mall that seems to be doing okay. It’s in a far tonier district and has several high-end (very) stores. To the north of it is a few square blocks of similarly spendy stores (Hermès, West Elm, DWR) and boutique-y little shops and restaurants and bars and such. And it’s all within walking distance of some of the priciest residential property in the region.

So, yeah, after the Great Recession, US real estate switched its focus from "suburban sprawl" to "urban infill" and we saw a lot of high-end apartments/condos go up in downtown areas throughout america, which supported a lot of retail and restaurants.
I'm 30 and when I was growing up, most of my city's downtown was considered dangerous. Now it's considered expensive.
If developers keep building high-end urban infill (which they are, albeit more slowly through the pandemic), you're going to see more support for downtown retailers. I'm not sure said retailers will be department stores, though.
 

Haversack

One Too Many
Messages
1,192
Location
Clipperton Island
I think the smallest department store I've ever been in was in the village of Niederndorf during the early 1980s. Back then the village had about 1,600 people and, although administered by the nearby town of Herzogenaurach west of Erlangen, it was separated from it by open farmland. The store was two stories, (ground floor and basement), with a pair of escalators connecting them. It had a bit of everything. Clothes, housewares, bedding, hardware, etc. No furniture that I remember and it distinctly did not have the gantlet of perfume and cosmetics to get through like department stores in the US. Its gone now and it looks like the building may now be an Apotheke or pharmacy.
 

Seb Lucas

I'll Lock Up
Messages
7,573
Location
Australia
Yeah, but the question is, if KaDeWe, Oberpollinger and Alsterhaus (all Signa Premium) would survive, if they wouldn't be the international "tourist attraction" for Fur-Russians :D, that they are now.

I personally see only one chance for the "normal" people's department stores:
Back to the total full-sortiment department store, they were back in the 70s/early 80s (?).

The old slogan: "All under one roof!"

Karstadt closed their entertainment electronics section finally in 2012. So Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof is now still focused on fashion, accesoires, drugstore goods, hardware, toys, electric devices, boxspring beds, sweets, a little literature and the now indoor travel office.

"All under one roof" never made sense in a world of specialist discount stores, which took over the majority of sales from the 1980's on. Few people would go to a department store to buy furniture or whitegoods or camping gear. These anachronistic models are based on a retail world where products were harder to find and prices were not as competitive. No department store can ever sustain competitive prices or range because buying power and space is limited if you are trying to do it all. They were not cool here even in the 1970's because department stores always represented mainstream and often dowdy tastes.
 
Last edited:

tonyb

I'll Lock Up
Messages
9,823
Location
My mother's basement
So, yeah, after the Great Recession, US real estate switched its focus from "suburban sprawl" to "urban infill" and we saw a lot of high-end apartments/condos go up in downtown areas throughout america, which supported a lot of retail and restaurants.
I'm 30 and when I was growing up, most of my city's downtown was considered dangerous. Now it's considered expensive.
If developers keep building high-end urban infill (which they are, albeit more slowly through the pandemic), you're going to see more support for downtown retailers. I'm not sure said retailers will be department stores, though.

As I’ve noted before, when I was a youngster I lived practically downtown, because that was where the (relatively) low-cost housing was. Now I live in the suburbs, because that’s where the (relatively) low-cost housing is.

The trend — the gentrification (and whiteification) of inner-city neighborhoods and the increasing “diversity” of the ’burbs — was well along before the recession of ’08 onward; it was in my world, anyway.
 

tonyb

I'll Lock Up
Messages
9,823
Location
My mother's basement
I think the smallest department store I've ever been in was in the village of Niederndorf during the early 1980s. Back then the village had about 1,600 people and, although administered by the nearby town of Herzogenaurach west of Erlangen, it was separated from it by open farmland. The store was two stories, (ground floor and basement), with a pair of escalators connecting them. It had a bit of everything. Clothes, housewares, bedding, hardware, etc. No furniture that I remember and it distinctly did not have the gantlet of perfume and cosmetics to get through like department stores in the US. Its gone now and it looks like the building may now be an Apotheke or pharmacy.

Sounds like what we used to call a “variety” store. They’ve pretty much gone the way of the dodo, too.
 

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