Kiezkaufhaus: Bringing Community Commerce into the Amazon Age

Two years ago, a small group of design professionals in Wiesbaden, Germany put their heads together to see if they could do something to address issues in their city. The things they saw around them were a deteriorating sense of community and a growing exodus of local money and tax revenues through online spending. What they came up with was Kiezkaufhaus.
Now operational for a year, Kiezkaufhaus is attempting to renew local retail vitality by merging the modern and now inescapable online commerce model with the modest and sometimes analog world of local merchants. The very name helps explain the concept. Kiez is a German word for neighborhood and Kaufhaus can be translated to mean something like a department store or mall. In essence, it is an idea that pulls together the more traditional aspects of local shops into a single online store.

Founder Michael Volkmer calls Kiezkaufhaus the local answer to Amazon.com. But whereas Amazon fulfills orders from a huge network of suppliers and ships hard-goods to the far corners of the world, Volker and his colleagues are targeting a much smaller, almost intimate market with offerings like locally baked bread and fresh produce that speak more to daily living.

Kiezkaufhaus speaks directly to the concept of thinking globally and acting locally.

Their aim is to provide an Amazon type of service in the sense of providing an online portal for shoppers, but the customer base and all the vendors who supply the network are all located within the city. It speaks directly to the concept of thinking globally and acting locally. By drawing 5-6 km circle around central Wiesbaden, Kiezkaufhaus keeps their operation simple, cutting down on resource consumption, and letting them explore alternative means of transporting the goods people buy.

Rainer Eidemüller Photo

The think local strategy has freed Kiezkaufhaus from buying a fleet of gas burning vehicles. Instead, Kiezkaufhaus relies on cargo bikes that not only check the box of taking an ecologically-minded approach, but also represent the most efficient way to get around the small, crowded streets of a typically European city.


interview situation

In truth there’s no better way to get around in this environment, because these bikes enable the Kiezkaufhaus couriers to go from door to door without having to look for parking or gas up. They pull up right outside the member merchants, go in to fulfill shopping lists, and then roll through the neighborhood making deliveries to their customers. The strategy has worked out so well in fact, the company is planning to invest in two new cargo bikes this spring.

After a full year of service, the clientele is still evolving. They have been able to tap into the existing neighborhood customer base, those who already shop at neighborhood merchants who may now enjoy the added convenience of home delivery, but they’ve also attracted new people. The online experience has helped bridge the gap to people who are perhaps more digitally engaged and who value shopping at their fingertips. Regardless of how they came to Kiezkaufhaus, all the customers share a common appreciation for this reliable, same-day service that delivers high quality, locally sourced products right to their doors in the heart of Wiesbaden.