Established in Geneva in 1902

A Swiss family enterprise spanning over a century, four continents and four generations of the Maus and Nordmann clans. In November 1902, department store owner Leon Nordmann with close friends, brothers Ernest and Henri Maus (mercantile and hosiery wholesalers) formed a partnership and opened their first venture in Luzern. The department store specialised in textiles, notions and knitwear. Relatively modest in surface compared to leading Parisian department stores of the day, that first store boasted avant-garde commercial retail sense and practices:

  • keen quality-to-price ratio: a wide assortment of quality goods at affordable prices
  • centralised and grouped purchasing arms: volume order discounts and lowered store prices of goods
  • client comfort and satisfaction : personalized services, store guarantee on quality of merchandise and price stability
  • forward-looking and strategic expansion within city and country, and beyond continental borders
    in a distinctly family business environment.

Today, Maus Frères SA is run with the same astute business flair of the enterprise’s founders. Succeeding generations of Maus and Nordmann heirs have parlayed the chain’s modest beginnings into a conglomerate of well-known retail brands and store chains in Switzerland and worldwide.

1800 – 1900

At the turn of the century, major capitals were struck by a wave of new stores that would radically change the buying habits of consumers all over the world. The stores were usually not small affairs but dramatic structures of marble, glass and steel. No longer would a customer have to go in and out of individual shops. They could now do their shopping “under one roof”. Stores boasted several floors.

Merchandise was artfully displayed in distinct “departments”: Hardware, Apparel, Kitchenware, etc. Prices were fixed. Customer comfort while shopping was a given. Elevators were installed. Elevator operators hired. Salespersons counselled. Floorwalkers ensured that shoppers were served… and served well. Porters carried parcels to customers’ waiting cars. While special catalogue orders could still be placed, catalogue shopping was now a thing of the past. The DEPARTMENT STORE was born.

In Paris, London, New York, Brussels and Berlin, temples to the new shopping order rose. Fashionable “emporiums” – as they were known at the time – replaced the blandness of general and mercantile stores. Le Bon Marché, La Samaritaine, Bainbridges, Austin’s, Selfridges, Wanamaker’s, Macy’s became part of the world’s culture.

Drapers, haberdashers, hosiers and general merchants in tiny Switzerland were also swept up by the Department Store revolution changing the face of continental Europe.

Leon Nordmann, Ernest and Henri Maus were among the pioneers of Swiss department store history.

Fast Facts

  • The Maus group of companies, based in Geneva, is organised as a private partnership at the holding level.
  • Operations are monitored through Maus Frères SA, a joint stock company wholly owned by founding families Maus and Nordmann.

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