Dhe last German department store group gallery presents its insolvency plan to the creditors at the end of the month. It is clear that many houses will have to close down in order to give the company a chance for a future in its second bankruptcy within two years. But a final list of closures for the ailing department store chain has not yet been finalized. After Galeria boss Miguel Müllenbach spoke to the FAZ of “at least a third” of the remaining 131 stores that would have to be closed, the general works council warned of up to 90 branches. This week, management and the works council agreed on the first key points, according to information from the FAZ it should now be about “no more than 60 branches” that will be closed.
But the general works council is also reluctant to provide more precise information, even in an internal letter to the Galeria employees it says: “As long as there is still talk, there is hope that the closure list will be corrected downwards.” works Council not a. However, he is preparing the approximately 17,000 employees for another “hard and painful time”, the “atrocities” would now arrive “with all severity” in the branches.
At double locations, a house is likely to close
At the same time, the Galeria management is still negotiating with landlords together with the general representative Arndt Geiwitz and the administrator Frank Kebekus, which of course also has an impact on the department stores to be closed. Just like a possible reuse of department stores that Galeria wants to sell.
In the cities where there are dual locations that still exist from the time when Karstadt and Kaufhof were separate companies, one of the two is likely to disappear. In some cities, especially in central locations, rental contracts are already expiring – and some landlords are looking for a subsequent use. The owner company Signa from Austria, on the other hand, still owns 22 department stores, including those in Cologne, Munich and Berlin. Department stores near the border with Switzerland, for example, are doing better than many others in more rural areas that have less good opportunities.
After the online retailer Buero.de had initially shown itself to be interested in individual branches, only to later jump off again, there is now another entrepreneur who is going on the offensive: Friedrich-Wilhelm Göbel, who has owned seven fashion houses under the named Aachener, says he is interested in a “larger number” of Galeria branches. Göbel is familiar with imbalances, he was once the managing director of the fashion chain Sinn before his ex-wife Isabella Göbel threw him out of the company in 2021. After numerous takeovers and almost as many bankruptcies, the couple took over the fashion chain from the Nuremberg fashion retailer Wöhrl.
In any case, a lot has accumulated in the trading division of the Signa real estate group: In addition to the ailing department store chain Galeria, the portfolio also includes premium houses from the Kadewe Group, as well as the online provider Signa Sports, the Globus department store chain and the furnishing brands Kika/Leiner to the empire of entrepreneur René benko
In order to better structure all of Signa’s trading interests, the Austrian billionaire apparently wants to hire Günther Helm, the former head of the drugstore chain Müller. At least that’s what the industry journal “Lebensmittelzeitung” reported, but Signa did not comment on it when asked. However, from the environment of the real estate group it can be learned that there has been contact with Helm for some time, but still no contract, let alone a signature under it.
Helm should have time after his sudden departure from Müller, at the end of last year the retail specialist also resigned his seat on the supervisory board of the state investment holding company ÖBAG. The Austrian, born in 1979, started his career at the Aldi subsidiary Hofer and worked his way up to the top management in the German discounter. At the drugstore where Helm started in 2019, he was actually supposed to be the successor to the company founder Erwin Mueller who, however, suddenly kicked him out the door in August of last year.
If Benko can lure his ideal candidate to Signa, Helm should get a kind of intermediate role there – above the Signa trading interests, but still settled under Dieter Berninghaus, who is responsible for the trading business. The former Rewe boss Berninghaus has been the head of the Board of Directors of Signa Holding since 2016, and under his leadership the business with retail holdings was significantly expanded.