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Gia Global Honoree: Kustermann

Delve a little deeper into German gia Global Honoree, Kustermann.

After 225 years in business, the German gia winner – F.S. Kustermann, a family business in the seventh generation – is an exemplary example of a retail store that has evolved with its customers, always celebrating the joys of life and the home.    

In 1798 in Munich, employees of F.S. Kustermann were wearing decidedly different clothing to those working there today. Back then, Kustermann was a foundry and the staff battled the intense heat from open fires in protective coveralls as they melted metal and cast metal objects. It was a year before Napoleon Bonaparte rose to power in France, and eight years before Munich became the Kingdom of Bavaria. Back then, F.S. Kustermann was producing much-needed products for a city undergoing rapid industrialisation.     

Today the foundry is no more, however there is still a small hardware store to be found within the modern Kustermann store – a nod to its humble and very different beginnings. Surrounding it are more than 70,000 products arranged across 5,000 square meters of department store, spread across three sweeping floors.

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In 2023, F.S Kustermann celebrated its 225th year in business and was chosen as the national winner in Germany for the Global Innovation Awards (gia) run by the International Housewares Association. In its 226th year, this remarkable department store that has seen more than two centuries of growth and innovation, became one of five Global Honorees at the gia gala dinner and awards ceremony in Chicago in March, cementing its place as one of the top home and housewares retailers in the world.

“This award propels us into the future with renewed vigor,” said Kustermann’s managing director André Garcia. “It also validates our blend of tradition and innovation, and it’s an encouragement to continue evolving without losing sight of our core values: tradition, delight and joie de vivre. It’s a significant moment that strengthens our position as a leader in the industry.”

The company’s tagline is “Munich’s recipe for joy of life” and it operates according to the principles of the Golden Circle by author, presenter and TEDx speaker Simon Sinek, who famously said: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it, and what you do simply proves what you believe.”

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“Our action revolves around the ‘why’ – we do it for the love of the home, which we believe is society’s heart,” said André. “This belief drives us and our staff to deliver our best, ensuring we provide products and services that enhance our guests’ lives at home.”

André and his staff felt that the gia application process was a reflective journey in itself.

“It allowed us to evaluate our business through a magnifying glass,” he said. “It reinforced the importance of our mission to make life at home beautiful and easy, ensuring that we offer long-lasting products for our guests.”

Although Kustermann’s impressive history and the awe-inspiring building could be laurels easily rested upon, André explains that the store’s heritage is a cornerstone of its identity, but not only one part of its approach.

“Word of mouth remains a powerful tool for us, thanks to our deeply rooted history in and around Munich, and our commitment to quality is also paramount,” he said. “However, our marketing efforts have also played a significant role in broadening our reach, inviting new Munich citizens and tourists to experience what Kustermann stands for.”

The gia jury agreed. “Kustermann is an old family store, however even with over 200 years of history, it remains relevant, always modernising its approach with updates and changes.”

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The Kustermann customer experience

From the first sight of the commanding store lining a busy Munich street, Kustermann sets the scene for the sophistication and grand proportions to follow – imposing stone walls house four magnificent two-story high arched windows with beautifully themed window displays in each, surrounded by elaborate stone pillars and shaded by racing green awnings much like those on London’s Harrods. It’s a place where it is immediately obvious that tradition, heritage, innovation and the modern world flow seamlessly together.

“Guests feel a sense of tradition, delight and joie de vivre both when they step into our store, and when they leave,” said André, who worked for many years in the hotel industry and prefers to call customers his guests. “We want them to feel inspired and appreciated, knowing they’ve found something truly special, or something that they truly want.”

André says that there are too many magical moments and experiences that have been created over the many decades at Kustermann’s to list, which all demonstrate the team’s commitment to personalisation and attention to detail, but some do stand out. “Once, one of our staff facilitated a shelter for more than a hundred guests to stay overnight in the store during a terror attack in Munich,” he said. “They were true heroes.”

Another memorable story was about a special guest looking for a specific porcelain for a family tradition. “Our team went above and beyond to find it for him, showcasing our dedication to making our guests’ experiences personal and heartfelt,” he said. “That guest was Freddie Mercury.”

The gia jury saw this as one of the reasons that Kustermann continues to succeed. “There is a great dedication to staff training and well-being at Kustermann,” they noted. “As the result, the staff of the store are very knowledgeable and passionate, and they’ve stayed with the company for a long time, establishing personal relations with customers.”

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Looking ahead while honouring the past  

André and his team see the future of retail as an integrated experience, blending the personal touch with digital innovation, sustainability and community engagement. “Kustermann is a space where tradition and innovation coexist harmoniously,” he said, while also noting that the pandemic underscored the importance of adaptability and the power of traditional, personal connection.

“The pandemic influenced a more thoughtful approach to shopping, emphasising quality and significance, guiding us to refine how we meet our customers’ evolving needs as special in the digital world.

“Our use of social media and marketing has enabled us to connect with our audience in dynamic ways, sharing our story and values, which has significantly enhanced our community engagement and customer loyalty.”

An impressive example of this is a drone video that was created in first person – as though someone was moving through the entire shop, soaring peacefully through the building. Watching the video is like flying through a warm world of endless delights – homewares lit up on stages and covering walls, grand staircases and beautifully lit aisles inviting guests to new places.

Despite this embracing of new technology and using it for marketing, the team will never stray too far from Kustermann’s roots. “While automation and AI have streamlined operations and enhanced customer service, we maintain a balance, ensuring technology enhances rather than replaces the personal, human touch that is synonymous with Kustermann,” André said.

 

To learn more about Kustermann, visit www.kustermann.de.

 

Sponsored and organised by The Inspired Home Show and the International Housewares Association (IHA), gia (IHA Global Innovation Awards) is the world’s leading awards program honoring overall excellence, business innovation and creative merchandising in homegoods retailing. For more information about the gia retail program, the co-sponsors or participating in 2024-2025, contact Piritta Törrö at piritta.torro@inspiredconnection.fi. Additional information on gia is also available online at TheInspiredHomeShow.com/Awards/gia-Retailing.

 

For more information about The Inspired Home Show and to pre-register for the 2025 Show, taking place in Chicago on 2-4 March 2025, please visit TheInspiredHomeShow.com.

 

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