History and founder

History and founder

From humble beginnings in Hamburg-Schnelsen to the whole wide world — the history of the Otto Group reflects a lot: the impressive personality of the founder, the economic history of the Federal Republic of Germany, and the most recent economic developments in globalization.



The milestones

1949
On August 17, the 40-year-old Werner Otto founds “Werner Otto Versandhandel,” a mail-order company. The company has three employees.

1950
The first Otto catalogue appears with a circulation of 300 copies. Its 14 pages contain offers of 28 shoe models. Under the motto of “Trust with Trust,” Otto is the first mail-order company in Germany to introduce payment by invoice.

1953
In less than two years, Otto quintuples its revenue. The circulation of the catalogue rises to 37,000 copies.

1956
The well-being of its employees enters into focus: Otto begins the five-day week.

1960
A place to grow: Otto-Versand moves to Hamburg-Bramfeld. This is where the Otto Group is based today.

1963
Otto heads down new paths: Customers can now call the number 040 61 10 81 to place orders—thanks to integrated data processing.

1970
Otto pursues a new dimension and generates revenue of over one billion in Deutsche Mark.

1972
Otto is no longer just a mail-order company now. The company moves further in the direction of a Group with the establishment of the delivery service Hermes.

1976
Otto acquires the majority of the shares in Schwab Versand. This makes the Group the third largest mail-order company in the world.

1981
Dr. Michael Otto becomes Chairman of the Executive Board of the Otto Group. The Group does business internationally with numerous equity investments.

1986
It is also a forerunner in ecology: Environmental protection becomes an official corporate goal of the Otto Group.

1989
Numerous German and international retailers now belong to the Otto Group: Witt Weiden, Sport Scheck, Moden Müller, and Euronova. The Group becomes more international.

1993
Dr. Michael Otto founds the Michael Otto Foundation for Environmental Protection. It advocates the protection and preservation of the essential element of life—water—and the habitats defined by water.

1995
Otto goes online: otto.de is one of the first mail-order companies in Germany to have a website with a large range of products.

1998
The Otto Group becomes a shareholder of the furniture company Crate & Barrel from Chicago and therefore also does business on the US market.

2000
After Amazon, the Otto Group is now the second-largest online retailer in the world.

2002
Otto Versand becomes OTTO.

2005
The Aid by Trade Foundation is founded by Michael Otto. Its goal is to preserve the foundations of life in the production countries.

2008
Also a pioneer in climate protection: The Otto Group commits to a fifty percent reduction in its CO2 emissions by 2020. And it keeps its word.

2007
Michael Otto becomes Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Otto Group.

2010
Motor e-commerce: The online retailer of the Otto Group reports strong growth. It is the most successful financial year in the company history with EUR 11.4 billion in revenue.

2011
Werner Otto dies at the age of 102. His spirit lives on in the Group, however—in the systematic commitment to responsible business practices.

2012
Michael Otto establishes the foundation 2°, which is now called the Climate Economy Foundation (Stiftung KlimaWirtschaft). Its goal is to counter climate change with market economy instruments.

2015
The Otto Group rings in Kulturwandel 4.0 (cultural change) , which is aimed at increasing agility and diversity. The process ensures that the company will remain viable and be able to handle the requirements of the digital transformation. In the same year, Benjamin Otto, the grandson of the founder, becomes Managing Partner of the Group . The Otto Group focuses increasingly on the online business.

2020
The Group targets sustainability with the shareholder vision “Responsible Commerce That Inspires” and shows how economically successful sustainable e-commerce can be.