Retail Column by Heidemarie Kriz, Point of Sale Doctor and Retail Architect (KRIZH, POSitive Affairs)
In today’s Opava (CZ), the accountant Carl Kastner and the salesman Hermann Öhler founded the haberdashery Kastner & Öhler on April 1, 1873. Ten years later, in 1883, a business premises of about 60 sq m was rented on Sackstrasse and extended and rebuilt several times over the years. Today, Austria’s most beautiful fashion house encompasses everything to make customers’ hearts beat faster on eight floors. In addition to the flagship store in Graz, the company currently operates 14 other locations and two outlets in Austria.
The original store
Over the decades, the building has been adapted and remodeled several times to offer visitors the most unforgettable shopping experience, currently on around 20,000 sq m. This also includes areas to linger and relax, such as the Champagne Bar on the first floor overlooking the bright, large hall. This is the centerpiece reminiscent of an opera house when you enter. Not surprisingly, after all, this house was rebuilt in 1913 according to plans by the architects of the Graz Opera, Fellner & Helmer. In 1993, the Sackstrasse facade was renovated. In 2003, the city’s year of culture, one of Austria’s most beautiful underground garages, was opened with over 500 parking spaces. The last big celebration took place in 2010 when the building opened its doors in a new, beautiful splendor. The Great Hall was restored to its original beauty, and, among other things, the gold stucco was reconstructed with loving attention to detail. But also the other areas were brought up to the level of international metropolises. This earned the department store the “Fashion Department Store of the Year” title in Las Vegas from among 300 applicants worldwide.
A view over Graz
For all those who have yet to visit the Department Store in Graz, there is another highlight on the roof of the building: a restaurant with a beautiful roof terrace and the Skywalk, a small platform that offers a view of the main square with the city’s town hall. Here, you can linger, enjoy culinary delights, and gaze at another landmark of Graz: the clock tower, beautifully displayed on the nearby Schlossberg.
In a way, being a pioneer has been permanently anchored in the DNA of the company’s owners. As early as 1887, the company started sending goods by mail and was thus a co-inventor of this service in Europe. For this purpose, catalogs were created to show the range of goods. The introduction of social benefits (including medical care, vacation, and Christmas bonuses) for employees was also on the agenda very early on. In 1926, credit accounts for customers were introduced in Europe. As early as 1959, the parent company had the first escalator in Styria! Since 1991, the “PlusCard” has been the store’s customer loyalty program. In the fall of 2013, Kastner & Öhler launched its online retailing department.
My tip: The example of K&Ö in Graz clearly shows how important it is to think ahead, observe, evaluate, and adapt. Not to rest on one’s laurels of the past but to constantly offer customers something new. It is a mission that has now been taken on by the fifth generation and will undoubtedly be continued. The impetus for this comes from the metropolises of the world. It makes sense to keep an eye out for developments and trends and adapt them to one’s purpose, as it conveys the company’s vision to its customers. This applies not only to the presentation of goods but also to the product range. On several occasions, I discovered new brands that I had spotted in Milan, Paris or London just a few months later at Kastner & Öhler in Graz. That’s impressive! A real proof of an innovative, committed, and internationally operating team!
KASTNER & ÖHLER
About Heidemarie Kriz
In this monthly retail column, retail architect Heidemarie Kriz shares with us her Retail Shop Tip and lets us know her thoughts and expertise regarding her experiences visiting some of the latest and most innovative shops. Heidemarie Kriz has been an architect and shop designer for more than 25 years. For decades, she has held senior positions with major brands across Europe, but she has also worked as a freelance concept designer, an architect, and a consultant specialising in shops, furniture design, customer and purchasing behavior, and visual merchandising. Kriz and her team of experts specialise in retail concepts, analysis, and holistic advice in the retail sector. In addition, she also writes retail-specific topics in the editorial team of ACROSS Magazine.