When Anja Sabrowski, like all the other employees of the Kaufhof department store, was called to the store manager on Monday, she already suspected that nothing good would be waiting for her. The group had convened a telephone conference to which department stores from all over the country were connected. The message from the very top? Unmistakable and tough: If you listen here, you're out. All connected branches must close.

Jonas Jansen

Business correspondent in Düsseldorf.

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A shock for Anja Sabrowski. She has been serving customers in Gelsenkirchen for thirty years. And yes, you could have guessed it, says the fifty-two-year-old. But to hear it, definitely and irrefutably, that was something else.

Anyone who enters the department store in Gelsenkirchen can grasp the paralysis that has prevailed since then. The paternoster hangs frozen on the third floor. So that nobody gets the idea to enter the old elevator, there is a sign in front of it. Even the escalator does not move, because of the energy crisis. "The paternoster was great," sighs saleswoman Sabrowski, "he gave up the ghost a few months ago, as if he had known."

End in Gelsenkirchen

This ends at the end of July. The department store is closed in the first wave of mass closures, it is one of the 47 department stores that the insolvent department store group Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof wants to close in order to ensure the survival of the 82 remaining stores. "In recent weeks, we have fought intensively for every single location," said Arndt Geiwitz, Galeria's chief representative. The company says that 4000,300 employees in the stores and another 5000 in the headquarters are affected by the closures. The central works council fears the loss of more than <>,<> jobs.

Negotiations are still underway with individual landlords, so at the last minute five department stores jumped off the original death list. Sabrowski no longer wants to believe that the house in Gelsenkirchen still has a future. "I think it's pathetic to play with people's hope," she says. On Monday, their hopes were dashed.

A little less than 40 people still work here in the traditional Kaufhof on the pedestrian zone near the train station, most of them are women, almost all of them come from a better time. The sick leave rate is high, but has not risen in recent days. You help each other, because now it gets really exhausting. "Customers want everything for free, it's just red everywhere, sale sale sale. And then the lights go out," says Sabrowski. Recently there were customers who wanted to buy the jewelry showcase. Everything has to go.

Creeping decline

Like the saleswomen in the Kaufhof in Gelsenkirchen, many of the approximately 17,000 employees of the department store group are currently in the same situation. For years, they have been witnessing the decline of the department stores that were once such proud magnets of the city center. In Oberhausen, there used to be one employee for ten square meters of sales space, the 90 trainees had their own canteen. In the Kaufhof in Gelsenkirchen once 1000 people worked, on a door is still today the inscription "Head of Department Wardrobe", soon 55 years old is the house, and you can see it. Little was invested here, because the infirmity of the group has been going on for a long time.