In the heart of West Berlin, at “Ka-de-Wa” department store, the atmosphere is tense. While it appears to be business as usual on the surface, signs of trouble are becoming increasingly apparent. The luxury stores on the ground floor are still well-decorated, but empty shelves and bare walls peek through the fashion floors. On the fifth floor, fancy films block access to most products in the design and home department.
Vendors on the sixth floor only accept credit card payments, citing bankruptcy as a reason. Despite Cigna’s denials, it’s an open secret that they filed for bankruptcy due to a combination of business reasons and poor economic conditions in Germany. This news has hit hard for both employees and customers alike.
In recent years, Germany’s economy has been struggling with a 0.5% contraction in 2023 due to debt and deficits. Politically, extreme right and far-left parties are gaining strength in the polls as they have not been since Germany’s establishment in 1949. These parties together win 25% of the vote according to recent polls. This year’s regional elections and European Parliament elections may translate public unrest into radical political change.
The struggles faced by “Ka-de-Wa” reflect larger problems facing Germany – it is hardly sold through the internet (it only started doing so in 2020), struggling to survive after Corona years where online trade soared and non-German economies have already recovered. However, according to its manager of business activity there is a future for “ca-de-va”, just not in its current framework with normal rents required for survival.
As lunchtime draws to a close at “Ka-de-Wa”, one thing is clear: things are not what they seem in this grand German shopping center that once symbolized Western European decadence and luxury goods galore.
It’s lunchtime at “Kaufhaus des Westens” or “Ka-de-Wa” in West Berlin’s bustling shopping district Taupitz Platz/Kurfürstenstraße