Are new concepts needed for our city centres?

The department shop of the future as a new anchor.

We all grew up finding at least one large department store in every city. Huge retail spaces over multiple floors provide a home for goods of all kinds, where everyone can find exactly what they're looking for.

For decades, this concept has always been successful, more or less. Many well-known retailers have passed through, such as Hertie, Horten and Kaufhalle. Others modified their concept and target groups, such as Woolworth. Yet others have for years been fighting a relentless battle against declining sales and missed opportunities, such as Karstadt and Galeria Kaufhof. Both groups recently tried to keep each other financially afloat by fusing under the roof of Signa Holding to become Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof. How this marriage went on became history.


Is there no longer a need for large department stores in our city centres?

More than ever before – but no longer as we know them.

Department stores are important and essential parts of our city centres for many reasons. These traditional stores, which are now often shutting down, will leave massive empty buildings with a lot of history behind. All these properties are located in prime city centre locations and are usually a central focus for everything that happens around them. When they close, an important benchmark is lost, in many cases even the only reason to visit the city centre.

These buildings usually have interconnected sales areas of several tenthousand square metres. Splitting them up and converting them is difficult to implement in most cases.

The giant department store is dead - long live the department store of the future!

Soon it became clear that we – and our city centres – cannot simply dispense with department stores. The retailers in the surrounding area will also suffer from the loss of the giants. A new concept is needed. One that will blow the thick layers of dust off the image of the department stores' and adapt it to the here and now.

The department store of the future represents inspiration and service equally. A harmonious combination of light, sound and scent takes visitors into a whole new world for a while, allowing them to forget the hustle and bustle of everyday life. In contrast to the familiar department stores', the customer will not be overwhelmed with an endless range of products, but will be provided with a carefully selected assortment of goods. Of course, as usual, from all the important categories.

Focus is on service and information. Digital touchpoints inform customers about everything that is important. What material is the jumper made of, where is it produced, are the colours in the children's toys safe and where can I find alternatives. Not the right colour or only a few sizes left? Surely there is a retailer in the neighbourhood who has the right product in stock! Service to the customer sometimes also means helping them with the best advice.

These are just a few examples of what a concept for the department stores' of the future can look like. Our belief is that department shops need to remain, just not in the same way as they have been in the past. We have plenty of ideas – and the time for something new is definitely now!

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