BERLIN In a new omnichannel push, German department store group Karstadt is courting foreign online and offline players interested in entering the German market.

Karstadt, which is owned by the Austrian Signa Retail group, said it will be holding initial talks with possible partners at the World Retail Congress 2017 in Dubai next week.

The idea is to develop Karstadt into a unique, physical and digital “marketplace” that would offer international partners the opportunity to take advantage of Karstadt’s network of stores and logistical set-up. The group said possible cooperations range from the leasing out of space to the operation of shops or the providing of logistical and digital services.

Online vendors, particularly in Asia, whose growth is limited by a lack of physical retail space, are a key target. As Karstadt chief executive officer Stephan Fanderl argued, “Where can they find better opportunities than in a department store with many customers?” The Karstadt department stores reportedly have a customer base of “240 million visitors per year.”

Such cooperations would also provide very welcome sources of additional revenue for the department store group, which is still in the midst of a turnaround.  However, Fanderl noted that Karstadt’s operative business in the current fiscal year ending September 2017 is “going well and we’re posting a sales plus. In the area of fashion, we’re doing better than the market,” he said, “and are running about 6 percent ahead.”

As a group, Karstadt is comprised of the 76 door Karstadt department store chain, the three-door premium KaDeWe group, a sports group including Karstadt Sports, Signa Retail’s recently acquired bike and outdoor e-commerce player Internetstores, Tennis Point and Outfitter, as well as a food and restaurant platform.

Karstadt said the group has combined sales of 3.8 billion euros, or $4.08 billion at current exchange, and employs a workforce of 18,000.

Karstadt is one of Germany’s two leading department store groups, the other being Kaufhof, which is owned by Hudson’s Bay Co. Inc., the parent of Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay in Canada.

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