Michelle Hespe speaks to the team behind Kastner & Öhler, one of the six impressive gia Global Honorees from the 2014 Global Innovation Awards held in Chicago.
Kastner & Öhler (K & Ö) has an incredibly rich history behind their exceptionally modern 40,000 square-meter department store. The store willalso always hold a special place in retail history, being the first company within the Austro-Hungarian Empire to regulate working hours and holidays. But that came later.
The company was founded back in 1873 in a place called Troppau, today known as Oppava, in what today is the Czech Republic. Then, Carl Kastner, while walking the streets in the city of Graz (then under the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy), discovered a little salesroom that was no more than 20 square meters. He decided that would be the location for the store, which now consists of ten buildings from six centuries, on four levels and includes an atrium, flooded with light. Today, the materials are kept simple to showcase the impressive selection of products – black matte metal, limed (dark) oak and industrial-style gray flooring.
Under the corporate umbrella, there is one K & Ö Home store, 13 fashion boutiques, 19 sports stores and one outlet store. K & Ö Home is divided into sections to make shopping an enjoyable, easily navigable experience, and in line with the company’s philosophy ‘retail is detail’, every element is thoroughly considered. The main sections include Cooking and Baking, Eating and Drinking, Bathing and Sleeping, and Giving and Decorating. There is also a show kitchen on the ground floor of the complex, which frequently hosts cooking demonstrations – so there is usually a mix of exciting and welcoming scents in the air.
The four gia expert judges – Martin M. Pegler, Wolfgang Gruschwitz, Scott Kohno, and Henrik Peter Reisby Nielsen – were incredibly impressed with the growth, concept and services of Kastner & Öhler.
The company has taken an unusual approach in that, in today’s technologically saturated world, they have deliberately chosen to not have digital presence within the store, “to create a classic yet modern shopping experience,” they say.
Kastner & Öhler has created a strong customer loyalty program with more than 400,000 registered customers, which is 80 percent of the store’s general customers. Every year, seven event-related EDMs go out to the customer base, and the store also hosts an amateur chef championship in their kitchen to get their customers involved. The more common aspects that make shopping a great experience are all a part of K & Ö Home, such as a wrapping service, home delivery and cashless customer card payment. But the store takes things a step further by also offering 700 underground car spaces, childcare facilities, a carousel and children’s cinema, a personalized shopping service, three restaurants all with different culinary offerings, and even a piano bar. It really is a world unto its own.
“Over the years, we have transformed from a regular local supplier of goods to a lifestyle concept store that is not frozen in nostalgia, but rather integrates its unique history in an exciting, modern way,” says Managing Director, Oliver Heun-Lechner.
The Kastner & Öhler team heard about gia through the German EK/servicegroup. “We were very impressed with the amount of international contacts we made through this,” Heun-Lechner said.
During the International Home + Housewares Show, Heun-Lechner said that it has been an amazing experience for their team to see new food concepts from all over the world, and to meet so many home and living retailers from around the world with whom to exchange opinions. He said it was an incredibly inspiring experience to see so many different products and people in one place, sharing innovations and inspiration.
On the night of the gia awards, Heun-Lechner said that his company didn’t have big expectations of winning one of the coveted Global Honoree awards because he was so impressed by the other national gia winners’ entries. “When we saw the other excellent nominated shops, we didn’t have an expectation of winning,” he said. “And when we did win, we were so surprised and happy! It was like a big thank you for all of the hard work over the years that have passed. On behalf of Kastner & Öhler, I want to express my deepest gratitude to the committee for honoring us with this award! It’s been such a great experience.”
“Retail is detail!” says Heun-Lechner. “And focusing on detail means accepting challenges, being open to critique, to excite and to get excited, to inspire, and be open to inspiration. We are so thankful for the encouragement that this gia award gives us.”
Now that the team is back in Austria, they have been proudly promoting their gia award in the national press, and will continue to do so throughout their advertising in 2014. Whatever they are doing, they are certainly doing it well – the store now welcomes an astounding 4 million people a year, making for around 1.5 million customers. That’s 141 years to be very proud of.
For more information about the gia (Global Innovation Award) program, the co-sponsors, or participating in 2014-2015, contact Piritta Törrö at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information on the gia program is also available online.
For more information about the International Home + Housewares Show and to pre-register for the 2015 Show, taking place in Chicago on March 7-10, 2015, please visit www.housewares.org.