Kotva, once one of Prague’s few department stores, celebrates 35 years


Thirty-five years ago on Wednesday, the Prague department store Kotva opened its doors for the first time. Back in the day, a trip to Kotva was as close as most Czechs could get to real luxury. Now, even after the arrival of modern-day shopping malls such as Palladium, which is located directly across the street from the old-fashioned department store, Kotva is still in business. Sarah Borufka talked to former Elle editor Jana Cíglerová, about what Kotva symbolized for those who lived under communism and how that has changed.

“Kotva was one of the only three department stores we had back then. It was considered the most prestigious place to shop, when you said that you shopped at Kotva or you got something there, you were considered cool. It just had this flair of something more.

KotvaKotva “It was just bizarre when you compare it to the present shopping experience, the style of shopping was just really communist and very different.”

How has Kotva changed since the revolution?

“For a few years after, it still kept the good name. But this was only for a few years, until the shopping malls arrived. When the shopping malls came, people lost their interest or their appetite in shopping at Kotva, because it hadn’t changed its shopping style. There still was counter service only and the angry and rude shop assistants were still there, and not a lot of variety. You wouldn’t go there anymore.

“But the worst moment for Kotva was when Palladium arrived, three years ago. Kotva was already struggling back then but this we all thought was going to be the killer for Kotva. But even 35 years later, people still find their way there, which I don’t really understand.”

Do you think in the long run, old-fashioned department stores like Kotva can keep up with today’s market?

“I’ve noticed recently that they’re trying to renovate their floors and modernize it, have more of an open space shopping style, maybe not having the angry shop assistant watching over as you pick some clothes.

PalladiumPalladium “So I would say Kotva is trying to keep up and if Palladium didn’t kill it, nothing will. Because the variety of things you can get there is considerable compared to what you can get in Kotva.

“For me, it symbolized the communism, the old style, even the name, the design is horrible. I hate it. To me, Kotva embodies everything that was wrong with shopping during communism.”