While government officials in this busy capital are holding the purse strings – tightly, at times – for the euro zone, environmentally conscious, independent Berliners are celebrating a busy tourist trade and growing retail scene. The city’s population nudged over 3.5 million last year, according to the German statistical office, Statistisches Bundesamt. More than 50 percent of Berlin households don’t have a car, the Toronto Star reports, citing 500,000 bikers per day; hundreds of miles of bike paths weave among the city’s 12 boroughs.
The Berlin Wall is an attraction for tourists, a somewhat tiresome subject for locals and, after all, a lingering influence on the city’s demographics. Minority populations include a sizable Turkish contingent, which grew in the western half of the city after construction of the wall caused a labor shortage.
New additions to the city’s retail scene include publishing house Gestalten and jeweler Atelier René Talmon l’Armée in Berlin-Mitte, as well as Wunderkammer, which offers antiques and curiosities in the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg borough. International chains are flocking to the city with Adidas, Barbour, Levi’s, Escada and Boss expanding their presence in the region, according to Women’s Wear Daily.
In western Berlin, luxury-loving Charlottenburg boasts a densely populated bar, shop and restaurant district, and includes tree-lined Kurfürstendamm, or Ku’damm, a broad boulevard laden with fashion designers. Meanwhile, the central, Berlin-Mitte borough offers a host of architectural treasures, including the Brandenburg Gate, and is the place to go for hip boutiques. A foodie scene aimed at 20- and 30-somethings in the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood sits just northeast of Berlin-Mitte.
For designers working in Berlin, “The importance of extraordinary retail locations will increase, with surprising architecture essential in this context,” says a KaDeWe (Berlin) spokesperson. The department store boasts 40,000 to 50,000 visitors a day, with about 40 percent of its revenue from tourists.
Germany has a rumored immunity against European economic woes, yet four months of rising unemployment, ending with a 6.8 percent adjusted rate in July 2012, per Bloomberg, may be cause for concern. Still, healthy tourism traffic and an open-minded populace, which would just as soon stroll, beer-in-hand, through the city’s many green spaces, are already drawing retail dollars. Can a healthy economy be far behind?