Ka-de-Wa, a West Berlin department store that has become a symbol of Western European decadence, is facing tough times. Cigna, the Austrian real estate company that has owned it for over a decade, filed for bankruptcy. The fate of the seven-story, 60,000 square meter store is uncertain. Despite Chancellor Olaf Schulz’s promises about the German economy a year ago, the latest data show that Germany contracted by 0.5% in 2023. The country’s economic situation is bad and its political and economic future is precarious.
On an average day, Ka-de-Wa attracts around 50,000 shoppers. But at first glance, everything seems normal. Fashion houses on the ground floor are beautifully decorated and shiny, while Chinese shoppers wait in line to enter Louis Vuitton for a shopping spree on the fifth floor. On the sixth floor, visitors can sip champagne and oysters or buy an end-of-season coat at discounted prices. However, closer inspection reveals empty shelves and bare walls on the fashion floors where vendors have pulled merchandise. Fancy films block access to most products in the design and home department on the fifth floor as well.
The chocolate shops on the sixth floor only accept credit card payments due to bankruptcy issues but don’t tell anyone about it publicly despite their pretense of normalcy. Some vendors who worked with Cigna did not receive payment for months leading to some of them pulling their merchandise from the store altogether. Cigna’s bankruptcy stems from specific business reasons such as rapid expansion, expensive financing and mismanagement against the backdrop of slumping commercial real estate market but it also reflects Germany’s dismal economic situation today which may lead to radical political change as far right parties gain strength in polls while leftist parties split apart forming new alliances winning significant percentage of votes in upcoming elections this year