KaDeWe: On the Cutting Edge in Germany

BERLIN — The beauty department at KaDeWe, Germany’s largest department store, has just gotten bigger, much brighter and — professional and popular consensus says — better.

The independent Berlin flagship of the Karstadt department store chain, KaDeWe has always played a starring role in German beauty retailing. Now, the main-floor beauty department has grown from 21,500 square feet to almost 30,000 square feet, taking up more than a third of the floor. The new department is the first step in a full-scale renovation and upgrading of the emporium, whose six sales floors are to be completed for KaDeWe’s 100th anniversary in 2007.

Although KaDeWe is in the process of trading up and internationalizing its image, director Patrice Wagner said beauty is typically ahead of the curve in this area. “In department stores in general, beauty is the first department to take a higher positioning,” he observed. “Beauty is a trailblazer when it comes to luxury.”

One of the biggest changes at KaDeWe is the beauty counters themselves — all 60 of them. No longer forced to conform to a KaDeWe norm, many beauty companies used the renovation as an opportunity to unveil display concepts. Shiseido, for one, presented its new, so-called “global counter concept, 2005,” an open beauty stage with integrated consultation areas. Estée Lauder’s 375-square-foot “beauty oasis” has also been designed to accommodate additional, enhanced consumer services, including airbrush makeup, neck and hand massages and eyebrow styling. The Estée Lauder Cos.’ Bobbi Brown Cosmetics introduced a warmer, more intimate counter look in white-washed oak and black stone for the first time in Germany.

Meanwhile, Christian Dior conceived its streamlined “DiorCosmotic” counter especially for KaDeWe and the new department’s Chanel counter is the brand’s largest in Germany — at 290 square feet, featuring Chanel’s entire assortment, including a fragrance bar of 13 scents. Sisley’s newest display, using glass fibers, had its German premiere in the department, and Givenchy opened its first German counter this month at KaDeWe.

Indeed, there are numerous German firsts to be found here. Aveda, Decleor and Transvital made their German department store debuts; Alessandro came out with its first nail and foot spa, set up in the middle of the sales floor, and a Molton Brown shop-in-shop offers the full range for the first time in Germany. Also, Nars, Stephane Marais, T. Leclerc, Ole Henriksen, Jurlique, Kenzoki, and Loewe were added to the lineup. At the department’s opening celebration earlier this month, guests could buy — during the party only — a personally engraved bottle of Prada’s yet-to-be-released perfume.

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