Bonn Around 50 years after its establishment, Knauber is selling its home improvement stores to Bauhaus. Two Knauber stores will have to close. This was confirmed by the company on Sunday, after the GA had already reported on Saturday about the planned sale.
The sale of the Knauber stores to the Bauhaus chain marks the end of a retail era in Bonn. It is the end for "Do it yourself" in Rhineland German, as created by founder Carl Ernst Knauber in the 1960’s.
After discovering similar stores during a trip to the USA, Knauber opened the first "hobby market" on Endenicher Strasse 52 years ago. The idea was for customers to develop hobbies and save money by not having to hire craftsmen to do the work. The business concept has lasted for over half a century: Besides the classic home improvement assortment, there are hobby articles ranging from handicraft accessories and goods to plants and kitchen utensils. "We have found our niche", said managing partner Ines Knauber-Daubenbüchel at the anniversary two years ago.
The first signs of trouble
But already at that time the first problems became apparent: In Montabaur, Knauber closed its branch there in 2017, and a garden center later opened at the location. Knauber-Daubenbüchel cited an " increased competitive situation" at the location as the reason for the closure. The attempt to make an inroad with smaller shops for hobby cooks ("Estella KochLust") in city centers was aborted by Knauber as it brought no success. The stores in Cologne and Münster were closed in 2016. "We wanted to establish a franchise system with it, but it didn't work out," Knauber-Daubenbüchel concluded in 2018. She heads the family business, today's Carl Knauber Holding GmbH & Co. KG, since 1990 in the fourth generation. It has recently invested around seven million euros in the new office building on Endenicher Strasse, which was opened in 2018.
The news of the sale to Bauhaus has been making the rounds amongst Knauber employees for several days. In a newsletter, which was made available to the General-Anzeiger, the management informed staff about their plans. "Changes have been a vital part of our company for four generations, ensuring the stability and continuity of the Knauber company," it says. "Now we are on the threshold of such a change." Knauber-Daubenbüchel cites the growing competition as the reason for the sale: "Today, the significant change in buying habits, especially due to the dramatic increase in online business, is leading to a trend that can no longer be reversed with decreasing (customer) traffic and significant losses in sales". As a medium-sized company with six branches, Knauber is not in a position to assert itself against competitors such as Amazon, it continues.
"A decision that hurts"
Still, the sale is "a decision that hurts", says Knauber-Daubenbüchel. In the social networks, many Bonn residents expressed their regret about the end of the Bonn DIY stores. "Just because of the handicraft things, a shop with many nice departments", writes a user on the Facebook page of the General-Anzeiger.
With Knauber and Bauhaus, two very different companies and concepts come together. The Bonn-based family business currently employs around 650 people with a combined turnover of around 470 million euros. Of the Knauber stores in Bonn, Ahrweiler, Bergisch-Gladbach, Pulheim, Bad Godesberg and Troisdorf, only the first four will continue to operate according to the current plans of Bauhaus. The stores in Troisdorf and Bad Godesberg will have to close.
Up to now, Knauber has been active in two different retail divisions. In addition to the six home improvement stores, the group also operates an energy retail business, which will continue to operate. Knauber sells natural gas, liquid gas, heating oil, electricity and pellets, among other things to private and commercial customers
Established in 1880
The Knauber company is significantly older than its home improvement stores. In 1880, Anna and Michael Knauber founded their colonial goods store in Bonn. They traded in household goods, feed and fuel. In 1901 their sons Karl and Josef founded the company "Gebrüder Knauber" and took over their parents' business. The second generation of the Knauber family soon specialized in the trade of energy sources. In 1923 they open the first gas station in the Rhineland in Endenich under the name “Westtank".
Bauhaus AG, based in Switzerland, is many times larger than Knauber. It operates 270 DIY stores in 19 European countries and in 2018, with more than 3.7 billion euros, was ranked second in Germany after market leader Obi. The product range of Bauhaus is that of a classic DIY store. At the weekend, Bauhaus did not want to comment on the Knauber takeover.