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Berlin: The reinvention of Kaufhaus des Westens

The reinvention of Kaufhaus des Westens

Kaufhaus des Westens – perhaps better known as KaDeWe – is one of Berlin’s most famous institutions. This noblest of department stores first opened its doors in 1907. The cityscape of Berlin has changed a lot since then, but the magnificent department store is still an integral part and a popular tourist destination. KaDeWe, which changed hands in 2015, is now set for significant redevelopment. Crucially, the latest makeover will combine tradition with modern requirements.

Throughout its rich history, KaDeWe has had many smaller facelifts. After all, traditional department stores are in no way immune to the ravages of time. And even the world’s most famous stores need to keep up with new technologies, brands and fashions. Over more than a century, KaDeWe has seen numerous additions. However, the tried and tested has seldom been touched. The latest redevelopment plans, which were submitted in 2016, go much further than merely cosmetic improvements. Even the famous 6th floor, home to KaDeWe’s world-renowned delicatessen department, is getting the full works.

The store’s management has commissioned globally respected architects to carry out the renovations. Their aim is to make the KaDeWe shopping experience even more emotional; to establish KaDeWe as a destination where customers want to stay as long as possible. Customers should not only be attracted to KaDeWe for upscale shopping, but also for a unique retail experience. After all, this is probably the only way long-established department stores can assert themselves in the face of increasing competition from countless modern shopping malls.

In addition, the aim is to increasingly attract a younger, more affluent target group. While the department store has a long tradition of highly loyal customers, young tourists from countries such as Japan, Russia and China frequently find it slightly old-fashioned. So, it is courageous, while not exactly surprising, that KaDeWe has chosen the trendy Berlin architect firm Karhard to revamp its delicatessen department. The architects are perhaps most well known for their interior design work in some of Berlin’s most famous nightclubs and attracted rave reviews for their redesign of the washrooms in the techno temple Berghain, where their concept featured stainless steel, rubber and brass. Their concept for KaDeWe’s 6th floor probably won’t be quite so experimental.

The architects are primarily focused on the redesign of the 6th floor’s food bars. While international champagne brands will retain their sophisticated surroundings, regional stands, such as the popular Kartoffelacker, are being revamped to capture Berlin’s typical laid-back attitude to life. Although Kartoffelacker won’t be quite as rustic before, have no fear, it’s not about to lose its authentic Berlin charm.

Alongside the traditional food bars, KaDeWe is also creating additional space for more trendy eateries. As a result, it’s not only caviar, oyster and champagne lovers who will find what they are looking for at KaDeWe; there will also be more on offer to tickle the taste buds of burger and craft beer fans. By combining the best of the old with the best of the new, KaDeWe is striving to achieve a balance that appeals to its regular customers, who love tradition, and also attracts new, more adventurous target groups that follow the latest fashions. The department store’s new concept combines the best of both worlds and will enable KaDeWe to retain its status as one of the capital’s most iconic landmarks.