The Schlecker women from Stetten spend the end together at the cold market.

In June 2012, the five employees of the drugstore chain that has just gone under will come to the branch in the municipality on the Swabian Jura.

They tape the shop window from the inside so that it is opaque.

You check in the empty warehouse and in the sales room one last time to make sure everything is in order.

Finally, they lock the shop door.

Then the women go out for pizza with their men.

Sticking together until the end, after everything that was and in view of everything that may come: That was important on that day almost ten years ago.

This is how Andrea Straub describes it in retrospect.

Martin Gropp

Editor in Business.

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Straub is one of the five former Schlecker women from Stetten. Pulling together, in good times and bad – Straub, 55, and her co-entrepreneur Karin Beck, five years her senior, still stick to that today, a decade after the Schlecker insolvency. Together they run the "Drogerie Drehpunkt" in Stetten, a good 100 kilometers south of Stuttgart. The community is known for the Alb barracks and a military training area for the German Armed Forces. When you drive into Stetten, the first thing you see is a sign that reads as an order: “Shopping in Stetten” is on it. For a place with fewer than 5000 inhabitants, there are surprisingly many possibilities.

On and next to the thoroughfare there is an optician, two butchers, a baker, two electronics retailers, a beverage store and a shop that also sells fruit, vegetables and flowers.

Right in the middle: the fulcrum of Straub and Beck, "my drugstore", as it says in the shop window.

The slogan should of course first and foremost give customers a homely feeling.

But it also applies to the two operators Straub and Beck.

Opaque empire

Until ten years ago, they were normal employees of Anton Schlecker's not so normal drugstore empire: a good 8,000 branches in Europe, around 6,000 of them in Germany, and a total of around 32,000 employees. Managed by a public-shy patriarch who, despite his size, continued to run his company as a registered merchant and therefore had to be liable with all his private assets in the event of insolvency. Schlecker lacked transparency and was controversial for his treatment of employees, who union representatives said were harassed and employed at dumping wages. Schlecker made it legendary that he managed to set up what was at times the largest drugstore chain in Europe through massive expansion from scratch.But in the tough competition of the drugstore business, the company eventually lost touch with more modern competitors.

Straub and Beck, along with their three colleagues, were the ones who kept the Schlecker system running in Stetten.

The idea was to run a not too big drugstore within walking distance in smaller towns and communities, filled with countless products on rather unadorned rows of shelves, between which only a narrow shopping trolley could fit.

After Schlecker declared insolvency on January 23, 2012, Straub and Beck were given a nickname that, depending on the time and perspective, sometimes sounded like honor, sometimes like a flaw: the two became “Schlecker women”, just like the round one 27,000 other, mostly female employees of the company in Germany.

With personal initiative from unemployment  

When Schlecker employees all over Germany fought immediately after filing for bankruptcy to ensure that their branch survived as part of a restructuring, the designation still signaled respect.

But when it became clear that the drugstore chain would lay off all employees, an undertone came up when it came to the Schlecker woman.

This was reinforced by a sentence by the then Federal Minister of Economics and FDP leader Philipp Rösler.