Station: [251] Prologue

„The Schocken Company is quite likely the most highly centralized of all German department store operations,“ wrote the Berlin „Journal for Goods and Department Stores,“ in 1931.  At this point in time the Schocken department store business was at the zenith of its success.  It hadn’t only become the largest department-store business in Saxony, but was also one of the five largest department-store groups in the German Empire.

The company headquarters were in Zwickau, where the brothers, Simon and Salman Schocken founded the business in January 1907.  From here, it had expanded to incorporate many branches in and outside of Saxony, but organisational issues, such as buying and selling, advertising and personnel policy remained in Zwickau.

Department stores were a result of industrialisation because for the first time, products could be manufactured and sold in large numbers. Apart from that, the wealth of the population and its spending capacity increased so that people’s needs and spending habits began to change. So it was that from the second third of the 19th-century, real shopping temples began to appear in the metropolises of Europe and North America. In Germany many department stores developed from existing businesses, most of their founders were Jews and names such as Karstadt, Tietz or Wertheim are still familiar today. 

The Schocken Brothers followed their own concept: the central focus of their sales philosophy was the product itself.  This was to be high quality, aesthetically appealing and accessible to everyone.  This meant reasonably priced mass products for a large number of consumers. The department-store architecture and advertising were supposed to reflect this and Simon and Salman Schocken found not only the appropriate architect but also the creator of their corporate design, the very first of its kind in Germany, in Erich Mendelsohn.