Traditionally, KaDeWe is noted as continental Europe’s largest department store. Translated, this means it isn’t as big as Harrods, but is nonetheless one of the beasts in the department store jungle.
Location Third floor, KaDeWe, 21-14 Tauentzienstrasse, 10789 Berlin
Size 64,585 sq ft, including 21,530 sq ft shoe shop
Number of brands More than 100
It also means that if a complete floor is refurbished and remodelled, it is the kind of project that would be far bigger than opening a medium-sized store in the normal run of things.
The decision to renovate KaDeWe’s third floor was a big one, even if naming it The Loft when it has four floors above it might seem curious. And perhaps the key thing about this 64,585 sq ft floor, as well as the kids’ department, is the size of the area devoted to a new shoe department.
At over 21,530 sq ft, and the focus of this piece, this equals the size of Stuttgart department store Breuninger’s new shoe department and both vie for the title of Germany’s largest.
01 - VISUAL MERCHANDISING
Many different ways of displaying shoes have emerged over the past few years, whether it is the multiple room approach adopted by Selfridges, the shoe chandelier from Kurt Geiger or the opulence that is on show in Harrods. In KaDeWe, the feeling is akin to a glamorous gallery – the kind of place where you are aware that all of the fixturing is just so, but you hardly notice it because the shoe is the star. There are, of course, single brand areas, around the perimeter, but given the number of labels on display, the more general modus operandi is to place a small Perspex block with the brand name etched into it next to the appropriate product. This again has something of the upscale modern art gallery about it.
02 - CONCEPT
The Loft is designed by Swiss architectural firm Interstore Design. As well as feeling like the lobby of an expensive hotel, it is easy to see from one side of the department to the other, in spite of the dimensions. The biggest brands have been allowed their own shopfit around the perimeter, but the great majority of what is on offer is displayed on glass and steel mid-shop fixturing. Sofas, chairs and glass box fashion displays have been incorporated into the mix.
03 - SERVICE
As the day of visiting was a pre-opening launch evening it would be hard to fault the service.
The score given is therefore governed by your correspondent’s experience of shopping in this store prior to the revamp, and also by what might be expected of a luxury department store. As in the best museums, the task facing staff in this store will be to keep things looking as good as they were at the launch party – shoppers rarely spend at this level if housekeeping standards are anything other than hotel-like.
04 - PRODUCT
There are, apparently, “more than 100 brands” on offer in this shoe shop. And most of these are top-end labels. In truth it is quite hard to think of a major name that does not have some kind of representation. This is, however, a shoe department: a distillation. The ranges are therefore a curated collection, rather than the full-blown branded offer from specific labels. It is a house of brands approach, but KaDeWe has managed to pull off the trick of making this feel like a branded house.
05 - COMPETITION
KaDeWe is located cheek by jowl with the Kufürstendamm – the long street that hums to the sound of Berlin’s most affluent shoppers. And being located here, the department store does have a significant advantage over similar offers in London. There are, naturally, specialist shoe stores in the area where shoppers can part with large amounts of cash to ensure that they have a well-turned heel. That said, displays on anything like this scale are in very short supply across the German capital, meaning that almost by default The Loft shoe shop will become a destination.
06 - VERDICT - Should do well
Think Berlin department stores and the only name that really comes up is KaDeWe. This is possibly why it has, until now, failed to have the same kind of pizzazz associated with a visit to, say, Selfridges or Harvey Nichols – it hasn’t really had to. Under recently installed chief executive Andrew Jennings’ guidance, however, this appears to be changing. A new beauty hall, a parade of luxury shop-in-shops and The Loft are proof that this is not a department store that will stand still any longer. This will become even more of a destination than it currently is.