Berlin Store Location Scouting Report

In August 2005 I visited Berlin (Germany) to scout possible locations for future Apple retail stores. There have been reports that Apple's real estate team had made the same trip earlier this year looking for spaces. But there have also been inside reports from Germany that the reseller Gravis will continue to be the major Apple sales presence in the city, and that no official Apple store is imminent.

The upscale shopping district of Berlin is Kurfurstendamm, commonly referred to as just Ku'damm. It's in the former West Berlin section of the now-unified city, and is very reminiscent of the Champs Elyseés in Paris or Meiji-Dori in Osaka--wide, double-lane street with a center divider, very wide sidewalks with outdoor cafés, and big leafy trees lining the boulevard.

The street is slightly west of city-center, and runs southwest from the Zoological Gardens at Breitscheidplatz. At the north end is the high-rise, glass-walled Europa Center with its ground-level and underground shopping center, the huge KaDeWe department store, and the start of a series of international retailers down the street.

As the street continues southwest, all the major international brands are represented, including Bulgari, Gucci, Cartier, Chanel, Burberry, Bruno Mali, Hermes, Valentino, Piaget and Louis Vuitton. Like Paris, there are also large auto showrooms along the street (Mercedes and BMW). After about 5 to 6 blocks, and south of Joachim Friedrich Strasse, the buildings begin to turn more modern, and the major retailers disappear.

The buildings are very similar to Paris--dating from the early 1900s, uniformly about 66 feet tall with retail on the ground floor, and apartments and offices on the upper floors. Unlike Paris, the retail spaces seemed to offer more 60 to 70-foot wide spaces, but most spaces are rather shallow (30-50 feet). Set into the sidewalk in front of stores are square glass display cases with the retailer's logo. The side streets are filled with art galleries, bookstores and cafés.

Bus stops along the street are accompanied by electronic signs showing when the next bus will arrive for each route that stops there. Electronic ticket machines allow a selection of languages beyond German. Parking along Berlin streets is tight, and some very short cars even park perpendicular to the curb.

Just north of this section of Ku'damm is the Apple authorized reseller Gravis, whose retail space on Franklinstrasse is inside a renovated warehouse surrounded by a parking lot. The displays are well laid out on white display counters, but it bears no resemblance to either Apple's retail store or Apple Centres in other cities.

To broaden out my retail space experience, I also visited two other districts of Berlin: Friedrichstrasse that runs north-south past "Checkpoint Charlie" into the former East Berlin, and the Potsdamer Platz, where Sony has a huge complex of five buildings, including a Sony Style store. The Sony buildings are adjacent to a traditional-looking, indoor shopping center, a cinema and several restaurants along a shaded street.

Friedrichstrasse is more like Ginza--narrow sidewalks, and tall buildings forming a canyon and formal department store. It's in the older former East Berlin. Potsdamer Platz is a new and still-being-constructed area of entirely new buildings not far from Friedrichstrasse, somewhat set out by itself. Both areas are not prime possibilities for Apple's retail initiative because of the lack of good spaces, the proximity to Sony, or the generally less-affluent neighboring retailers that don't attract local and tourist shoppers.

Check the photos for my notes about the various properties.

Update: In early 2011 tipsters said Apple had leased #26, as shown in the photo below.

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aa_corner ab_street ac_building ad_building

typical corner building
along Ku'damm

2-lane roadways and
leafy trees

typical older style
building

Burberry store

ae_building af_sidewalk ag_sidewalk ah_corner

typical newer building

very wide sidewalks

store display cases set
in the sidewalk

wide street with a
center divider

aj_longview ba_open bb_open bc_open

some corners have
mini-parks

empty retail space

 

empty retail space with
display case in front

ca_open cb_open cd_open da_open

another empty retail
space

   

still a third empty
retail store space

db_open dc_open ea_stairway fa_building

this space at #26 has a renovated
front doorway [future site?]

huge interior space of a
former cinema

the interior of the Mey & Edlich
store--hey, circular staircase

typical buildings on
Friedrichstrasse

I also visited the huge KaDeWe department store at the northeast end of Ku'Damm--the food court alone would take you hours
to go through completely! They sell Apple products in their computer section, including iPods, iMacs and iBooks.

The Macintosh section is generally composed of two kiosks around which the various computer products are displayed, including
the iBook, iMac and Cinema Display (l. to r.) shown on this side.

On the back side of the kiosk there are laptops and various accessories. Notice the iLife and iWork software boxes above the
right laptop display.