How do you take a 19,000 sq ft space with a 10 ft high ceiling in a German department store and make something of it?
Normally, the response to this among German retailers would be to fill the floor with branded merchandise, make sure that everything is side-hung, looks more or less the same and then stand back and hope.
Not so in Karstadt in Cologne, which is the first in-store venue to receive the K-Town treatment that was given its initial airing as a standalone proposition last year in the town of Göttingen. Now, having proved its worth, Karstadt’s answer to young fashion is for roll-out.
In the Cologne store the false ceiling has been taken out, providing a void more than 15 ft high.
The space has been painted black, in contrast to the normal Karstadt white, and untreated wooden plinths form the bulk of the display equipment.
The sense of difference from the main store is emphasised by the use of signage too. There are arrows pointing towards ‘Karstadt’ – the implication being that it is a different shop, even though it is part of the whole.
The cost of the exercise, according to chief executive Andrew Jennings, was about f1.7m (£1.35m), making this a very cheap conversion to carry out when set against department store norms.
This part of Karstadt Cologne used to be a quasi bargain basement for ends of lines and suchlike.
It is now transformed. The project has taken three months from start to finish and Jennings says that six other stores will receive the treatment during 2013.
Karstadt has had its ups and downs in the last few years, with perhaps more downs than ups, but this is a move in a positive direction.