From when an idea is conceived until the final product is presented to consumers – Søstrene Grene aspires to make a significant difference to people, wildlife and the environment. Here, RLI speaks with company CEO Mikkel Grene to discuss how the brand has innovated during the pandemic and what its plans are for the future.
At Søstrene Grene, the focus is on the natural joy and aesthetics of the little things in life and in their 244 stores across 15 countries, customers will always find a wide range of products – many of which have been designed themselves with inspiration from their Nordic origins.
The business believe that aesthetics are in the detail and therefore always mindful of the importance of the choice of materials and colours. They firmly believe that being surrounded by high aesthetic quality will bring joy to the daily lives of their customers.
The effects of Covid-19 definitely altered the strategic plans for Søstrene Grene, and in particular its digital strategy. The company was of course already implementing digital plans, but the onset of the pandemic essentially turned a three-year plan into a one-year plan.
“While the customer response to our stores since the end of lockdowns across the world has been excellent and has really given us confidence in the future of the physical store, the pandemic has made us move forward in our digital journey, and we have opened web shops in eight different countries and have really begun to engage in this omni-channel journey, which has also been very well received by our customers,” explains Mikkel Grene, CEO of Søstrene Grene.
While the coming months will see the business focus more primarily on their digital platforms, store expansion is still on their radar and some really good recent openings in Switzerland has begun to highlight the potential that market has for the brand, and along with France and Germany and will be key target areas when expansion comes to the fore.
“For now it is a matter of concentrating on the digital arena, before turning our attention to adding more stores in our existing markets,” says Grene. “The UK is a key country we are looking to improve in.”
The idea of renewal is a huge part of the Søstrene Grene offer, and customers know that if they go into a store from one week to the next, they will find something new each time. This is one of the ways the company maintains its market position, by offering a wide assortment of products in an unusual mix of categories, each of their stores is almost a multi-category store so guests can find new and different items on each visit.
They have in place their own in-house design department which Mikkel feels is more important than ever because it is becoming increasingly important to have unique products and to always add new lines.
“Our growth in digital has opened up new possibilities for us to add more products and in fact we are now seeing that the furniture category is getting stronger by the day because of our additional digital options, it is allowing us to deal directly with customers and to acquire more knowledge about our shoppers and it is giving us a better understanding of what they want and need.”
Social media has been an important avenue for Søstrene Grene for many years already, but just recently they have seen a spike in their Instagram profile, and they now feel that this platform has taken over from Facebook. Grene says to us that retailers have to realise just how big a role it plays in the whole process for customers and how they find products. He also feels that it is vitally important to create your own media content because of the rising costs associated with social media in recent times.
When looking at the company as a whole, it is customers’ emotional attachment to the brand that has been the factor for much of the success it has enjoyed over the years. “Guests do not just come to our stores to purchase the items that they can buy anywhere else. They come to us because they want a certain kind of experience, an experience that allows you to get away from the stressful life outside and just take some time for yourself,” Grene points out.
Almost 50 years old now, the business is still a family-owned and operated one in its second generation and whilst it has grown internationally, it has always maintained this unique culture in the business and always remained value driven; it is these elements that Grene feels keeps customers coming back, this authentic and unique experience.
As the interview draws to a close, Grene points out the important role sustainability now has within the day-to-day running of operations. “This is a big focus area for us, this whole sustainability and responsibility agenda. This is not something that will only be here for a few months or a couple of years, we know at Søstrene Grene that this is here to stay and we want our customers to know it is of high importance for us just as it is for them in our operations today and in the future as we look to continue growing the company.”