German Retail Stores Handling Boys' Clothing

Figure 1.--The best known German mail order house is Quelle. The German mail order house Quelle Versandhaus was established in 1927. Quelle, is a German mail order company located in in Fuerth, Bavaria (where Henry Kissinger was born). This is a page from their 1973 catalog. The caption here says, "Für echte Jungs" which means, "For the genuine young."

Department stores began to develop in Germany as was the case in other European countries. The German stores began to develop in the 1880s, somewhat later than in France and England. The first German Kaufhäuser appeared in Berlin and Hamburg around 1904, although the stores they elvolved from were founded earlier than that. HBC is not sure why department stores developed later in prosperous Germany than other major countries. The German stores followed the familiar pattern of department stores in other countries. These stores offered services that earlier only only the wealthy had been able to afford. There was no barering. Prices were fixed at relatively low prices because of the stores ability to buy in bulk directly from the manufacturers. Customers could browse among well stocked shelves and goods could be returned with no questions asked. Many important German department stores were founded by Jews (Tietz and Wertheim are two examples). These any many other Jewish business were adversely affected by NAZI-insired anti-Jewish boycotts. Many were damaged on Kristallnacht in 1938. The stores were then Aryanized. The Jewish owners were forced to sell their interests at nominal prices or in many cases they were simply expropriate through a variety of legal and non-legal means. Similar actions were taken aginst manufacturers and smaller retailers. The embargoes were in fact the first major step the NAZIs took against the Jews finally culminating in the Hollocaust. The Jews who survived the Hollocaust were rarely compensated for these expropriations or had their property returned to them after the War. The German fashion industry was significantly affected by the NAZI program.


The German terms for department store, das Kaufhaus and das Warenhaus, are interchangeable, but Kaufhaus is used more. A department within a department store os a Abteilungen) you would find in a German. Do not confuse the English word "warehouse" with Warenhaus! A warehouse is das Lagerhaus or die Lagerhalle in German.


A small number of individuals revolutionized German retail trade in the late 19th century. Some of the most important were Theodor Althoff and Rudolph Karstadt, Josef Neckermann, Gustav Schickedanz, and Oscar Tietz. Like similar retailers in other European countries, these shared the vision of a modern department store, providing offering a wide variety of quality products. Volume sales allowed these retailers to offer affordable prices to as many people as possible. Previously consumers went to a variety of small shops specializing in a narrow product line. Their new department stores offered both lo prices and convenience--everything under one roof. Mail order catalogs provided te same variety od selection from home.

Major Stores


Theodor Althoff in 1885 took over the Haberdashery, Woollens and Linen Store from his widowed mother in Dülmen/Westphalia. He pursued the same business policy as Karstadt.


Baur was an important mail order firm in the 1970s. A German reader tells us that Baur helped to popularize open-toe sandals in Germany.


The most important pattern company was Burda.

C & A Brenninkmeyer

One of the largest fashion retailers is the firm C & A Brenninkmeyer. There were in the early 2000s 480 stores with 30,000 employees in 12 countries.

Galeries Lafayette

The French Galeries Lafayette has a large, modern department store in Berlin.

Galeria Kaufhof


Hertie is short for the Tietz Department store. The founder was Hermann (Hertie) Tietz.

(Nathan) Israel Department Store

The NAZI boycott against the Nathan Israel Department Store in Berlin began at 10:00 AM on April 1, 1933, the same time as at countless other stores big and small throughout Germany. Storm Troopers strategically placed at the entrances held signs reading "Germans defend yourselves! Don't buy From Jews." The store in 1935 was seized by the NAZIs. Wilfried Israel was notified that he was no longer the owner. He continued to work there as hundreds of the firm's Jewish employees were discharged. He is credited with managing to get most of the staff, specially the children, out of Germany before World War II broke out in 1939.


Rudolf Karstadt opened his first drapery, manufactory and garment store in Wismar/Mecklenburg durin 1881. Karstadt's business was incorporated as Rudolph Karstadt AG in 1920. Rudolf Karstadt AG merges with Althoff in 1920 in part the result of the difficult economic conditions following World War I. Karstadt during 1977 acquired a majority holding in Neckermann Versand AG. Neckermann Versand AG is integrated in Karstadt AG by 1984 when over 95 percent of Neckermann equity is acquired. Karstadt in 1994 acquired 100 percent of the department store concern Hertie Waren- und Kaufhaus GmbH. Karstadt in 1999 acquired Hertie. Karstadt and Quelle merged in 1999 to form KarstadtQuelle AG. But Karstadt AG owns KaDeWe and also operates stores under the names Hertie, Karstadt and Wertheim.


A Guardian (English) newspaper article reported on March 10, 1933 a few days before te NAZIs launched their nation-wide anti-Jewish blockade, "During the busiest shopping hour this evening the following scene could be witnessed outside the Kadewe, the largest department store of the West End [of Berlin]. A detachment of Storm Troops marched up to the shop, formed a cordon in front of the entrance, and put up a large notice, 'Germans! Don't buy from Jews.' The people inside the shop left hurriedly and no others were allowed to go in. The police looked on with apparent indifference. Many people who had assembled outside seemed to be favourably impressed by this demonstration, and talked cheerfully to the Storm Troopers, who assured them that 'they would put an end to the Jewish shops'."

Marks & Spencer

and the British Marks & Spencer recently opened its first department store in Germany, in Cologne (Köln).

Nathan Israel

TheNAZIs launched a nationwide boycott of German business on April 1, 1933. The SApicketed the Nathan Israel Department Store with signs reading "Germans defend yourselves! Don't buy From Jews." The NAZI Aryanization program by 1935 seized the store from Wilfried Israel who was notified that he was no longer the owner. He continued to work at his store while hundreds of Jewish employees were laid off. He helped to get most of the staff, especially the children, out of Germay before the NAZIs launched World War II and began the Holocaust.


Josef Neckerman established the wholesale textiles concern Neckermann KG Textilgroßhandel in 1948 following World War II. A mail order company, Neckermann Versand KG, was added in 1950.


Otto was an important mail order firm in the 1970s.

Peek & Cloppenburg (the Netherlands)

Peek & Cloppenburg was founded by Johann Theodor Peek and Heinrich Cloppenburg in 1869 in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. Peek & Cloppenburg were German cloth manufacturers. There were in early 2000 are 100 stores in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Austria.


The German mail order house Quelle Versandhaus was established in 1927. Quelle, is a German mail order company located in in Fuerth, Bavaria (where Henry Kissinger was born). I don't aware if Quelle was involved in export sales before World War II (1939-45). My guess it thar Quelle in the 1930s was primarily focused on the domestic market. This changed after the War and a considerable interest was palced on export maketing as well as foreign sourcing. Quelle was one of the major German mail order companies in the 1970s. A HBC reader reports that Quelle continues to be a very important mail order company. It also operates in France. A French reader reports that, "the articles sold in Germany are practically the same found in France. One of the older manufacturer is located in Orléan, France". There apparently were several different editions of theQuelle catalog. A French reader, for example, tells us that the catalog for French Guiana (also used in Guadeloupe and Martinique) didn'y have winter articles. Quelle still exsits and is quite an important one. Quelle in 1995 opened what they claimed was the world's most modern mail order house in Leipzig. Quelle incorporated as Quelle AG in 1997. Karstadt and Quelle merged in 1999 to form KarstadtQuelle AG.


Dr. H.C. Schickedanz established the wholesale haberdashers Gustav Schickedanz Kurzwaren en gros in Fürth during 1923.

Tietz Department Store

Oscar Tietz in 1882 borrowed money from his his uncle, Hermann Tietz to establish the Hermann Tietz Button, Thread, Embroidery, Linen and Woollens Store in Gera. Tietz's firm in 1896 was renamed a department store--Warenhaus Hermann Tietz. The flagship store was located in Berlin, but there were also stores in other German cities like Düsseldorf ( built by by Olbrich in 1906-08). Like the Tietz Department Store shown here, many of the first department stores like Tietz offered services that only the wealthy had previously been able to afford before. Prices were fixed and comparitively low. Customers could browse and goods could be returned with out question. Mothers could not only buy cloths, but also have their photoraphs taken at Tietz. As Tietz and other impprtant German department stores were Jewish owned thy were targts after the NAZIs seized powe of first boycotts and and then the Aryanization program.



The American discount chain Wal-Mart has also established a presence in Germany over the last few years. Initial reports suggested that they have been encoubntering problems in the German market.


Wenz was an important mail order firm in the 1970s.


The now defunct American chain Woolworth is still a well-known brand in Germany, with stores all across the country.


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Created: March 9, 2002
Last updated: December 13, 2003