The “Kaufhaus des Westens,” a historic department store in West Berlin, is facing financial difficulties. Despite its reputation as a symbol of Western European decadence and luxury, the store has been struggling to keep up with the changing economic landscape. Cigna, an Austrian real estate company that has owned the store for over a decade, filed for bankruptcy last year, leaving many vendors without payment and unsure of their future.
As a result of this setback, the once bustling store is now filled with empty shelves and bare walls on the fashion floors. Fancy films have also blocked access to most products in the design and home department on the fifth floor. “It’s not for sale at this stage,” a Zevan representative clarifies to customers trying to purchase satin bedding.
The store’s financial troubles are just one piece of the larger economic picture in Germany. After assessments and reassessments, data published this month shows that Germany contracted by 0.5% in 2023. This marks yet another setback for Germany’s struggling economy, which has been facing debt and deficit reduction challenges for years now. Meanwhile, politically, extremist parties are gaining strength in the polls as they haven’t since its establishment in 1949. The far-right “Alternative to Germany” party and far-left “Sarah Wagenknecht Alliance” together win 25% of the vote according to recent polls.
The department store’s problems reflect not only its own struggles but also those of Germany as a whole. Online trade has soared during the Corona years, making it difficult for brick-and-mortar stores like “Ka-de-Wa” to keep up with changing consumer habits and competition from other economies that have already recovered from the pandemic. The manager of business activity at “Ka-de-Wa” insists that there is still a future for the store but only under normal rent conditions.