At the age of 13, Paulmann worked as a telephone operator in Buenos Aires and later worked making wooden toys. His family settled in the city of Temuco in the south of Chile, and his Father got a position as a franchisee at Club Alemán and at Club de La Unión. In 1952, Paulmann's family bought a local restaurant called Las Brisas and they soon transformed it into a supermarket. Since then and after the death of his Father, Horst and his brother Jürgen Paulmann built a series of supermarket chains, beginning with the first hypermarket, located on Av. Kennedy. It measured 4,000 square meters and would become the foundation of the holding company Cencosud.
Cencosud was founded by Horst Paulmann on 10 November 1978 when he assumed the role of CEO and chairman. Cencosud employs more than 150,000 people in Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and Peru, where it operates its supermarket chains (such as Jumbo, Santa Isabel, Disco, Vea, Gbarbosa, Prezunic, Bretas, Perini, Wong and Metro ); department stores (such as París and Johnson's); home improvement stores (such as Easy and Blaisten); commercial centers and credit stores (with over 4.3 million credit cards issued).
In 2004, Cencosud began trading its shares on the Santiago Stock Exchange, and on the NYSE starting in 2011. The Paulmann family is the main shareholder of Cencosud. Manfred, Peter and Heike Paulmann Koepfer have represented Cencosud in its directory and are part of the agreement of the board of Directors, which was formed for the succession of the President in the conduct of the company.