House, dog, hairpin – everything you could buy at quelleversand in the 70s

House, dog, hairpin - everything you could buy at quelleversand in the 70s

Insolvency administrators have other things to worry about than preserving historical testimonies, and so an important piece of french economic history ended up on the dole when the quell e group went bankrupt in 2009.

Today quelle is industrial culture – a museum piece

regine franzke from the museum of industrial culture in nurnberg remembers: "shortly after the archives were taken over, the building was cleared and the waste containers were filled with everything that remained, as one would hoard." when the art historian and her colleagues got wind of it, they saved what could be saved.
The business archive has disappeared, but part of the catalog and photo archive is now in the possession of the museum.

At the peak of success

this sad end of the shipping giant was unimaginable in the 70s. 1977 quelle celebrated its 50th anniversary. Company anniversary – and was at the peak of his success. At the time, one in two germans said they were customers of quelle.
Shopping was not done on the internet, the towns were full of specialist shops that did not belong to any chain, there were auntie-emma stores and in the countryside it was often still possible to buy food directly from the farmer.
For everything else there was source: straw hats and mallorca irons, hairpins and "second hairstyles with real hair character (transform for HIM daily new)."

Kilo sheer consumption dreams

even dogs (including vaccination card and pedigree) could be ordered in the 70s at quelle. Prefabricated houses have been sold by mail order since the 1960s through a special catalog that popularized this construction method, which was hardly known in germany, in the 1970s. "There were several special catalogs, for example, also for furniture, do-it-yourself and garden", says franzke.

Prosperity growth in the 70s

quelle benefited from the prosperity that increased considerably in the 1970s. According to the federal statistical office, only 42 percent of income was needed for essentials in 1977/78, compared with almost 60 percent in 1963. According to franzke, the catalog in the spring of 1951 contained only a modest 16 pages, but the anniversary edition had grown to 980 pages. 80000 products were listed, and the main catalog was printed 7 million times. When he fluttered into the house, dad studied the consumer electronics of the privileg brand, mom the fashion of the world and the pubescent son the underwear pages.

The colorful bible of consumption

the kilo heavy catalog was the colorful bible of consumption. Regine franzke does not like this formulation however. "Especially if you know the story of the merchant gustav schickedanz."

Success story and downfall

the art historian has worked intensively on this history: six years ago, she put together the only and unique special exhibition to date on the rise, success story and decline of the company in the museum of industrial culture.
Franzke explains the company’s philosophy: "from a small profit to the greatest possible benefit for as many people as possible." the mail order business paid off not only for the quelle company, but also for consumers – and for droves of suppliers. "Quelle indirectly employed entire industrial sectors and service providers." it was a very important employer: "for nurnberg, the region and beyond". At peak times, up to 8000 people worked around the clock in the quellegebaude in the further strabe, with up to 100000 parcels being shipped every day. The spring area with its striking tower was a symbol of prosperity and a jewel of modern architecture.

The personalities

after the death of company founder gustav schickedanz in 1977, his second wife grete took over responsibility for the company. "The top management felt committed to the employees and maintained contact with them. Working conditions and social benefits in the company were considered exemplary."
At the 2012 exhibition, franzke met many former employees, some of whom had long since retired when the insolvency came, but also former employees who had become unemployed overnight. She has "memories of the good times when grete and gustav schickedanz ran the company, of the feeling of togetherness".

The name persists

but frustration and anger were still noticeable. "I don’t understand how such a company could be driven to the wall."
economic historians explain the decline by looking back at various social and economic changes. The mail order giant had grown so much that it had become immobile and could no longer react quickly enough.
"But the internet was definitely not responsible for the downfall. Quelle had already put out its feelers to this market at a very early stage", says franzke. Today the name exists only in the online business. The baur company from burgkunstadt, a member of the otto group, has secured it for itself.
More on the french economic history of the 1970s:
read here the history of the scholler ice cream empire. This article is about the food culture and culinary escapades of the 70s.

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