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Q&A with Mikkel Grene, chief executive of Søstrene Grene

Here we talk to Mikkel Grene, chief executive of Søstrene Grene, about the Danish homeware retailer’s rapidly expanding presence across the UK. Can you briefly tell… View Article

GENERAL MERCHANDISE NEWS

Q&A with Mikkel Grene, chief executive of Søstrene Grene

Here we talk to Mikkel Grene, chief executive of Søstrene Grene, about the Danish homeware retailer’s rapidly expanding presence across the UK.

Can you briefly tell us about Sostrene Grene?

My parents Inger and Knud Grene opened the store in 1973 and were ahead of their time when they introduced a store with a self-service concept in Aarhus. While my mother had her sense for business and negotiation from her home in Skjern in the west of Jutland where her father was a business owner, my father had a background as a ballet instructor. From this came the inspiration for many of the elements for the Søstrene Grene concept that we know today: among other things, the classical music in the speakers, the dark walls like the setting in a theatre, as well as active staging of products using lighting that was supposed to contribute to a cosy atmosphere.

‘Søstrene Grene’ is Danish for ‘the Grene sisters’. Grene is our family name. The characters behind the two Sisters Anna and Clara were inspired by my mother’s two aunts. ‘Søstrene’ refers to the two hosts, sisters Anna and Clara, who represent the company and our concept. Anna is the creative sister with a highly developed sense of aesthetics, while Clara is the practical and orderly sister. Together, they are behind the diverse experience that Søstrene Grene always has to offer.

How many stores do you currently have and what are your plans for the UK for the rest of the year?

Currently we have just under 300 stores across Europe, 27 stores in the UK (one in Scotland, three in Northern Ireland and 23 in England), with about 15 more to come before the end of the year.

How does the UK differ to your other markets?

One thing which has been quite atypical is that we have opened stores in smaller cities and in places, where other retailers have closed stores, and we have been very well received by the customers in these cities. In general, we have been very well received by the UK customers in our current stores. This warm welcome creates huge potential to expand our store concept to more areas and an even broader audience so we can invite even more customers to immerse themselves in Anna and Clara’s wonderful, aesthetically pleasing world.

We are eager to expand both in the larger cities and in smaller corners of the UK, and due to our presence in some of the largest markets in Europe such as France and Germany it gives us great confidence to continue this expansion in the UK as well.

Can you tell us about the ‘Retail for the Senses’ store concept?

With ‘Retail for the Senses’, we have worked hard to create a store concept that even more than before will activate the senses. We work with the lighting and the colours throughout the store. We were very inspired by the concept of a city and have implemented ‘city squares’ throughout the store to give our customers space to take in the displays while the flow of people remains organic.

What is the brand’s most important categories – how are these being developed?

Well, I would say that all our categories are important. We do see that our customers are very interested in our home décor, small furniture, and hobby products. We continuously launch new products and naturally develop them along the way; we have worked at phasing-out many of our single-use products and are focusing very much on developing items that can be used again and again.

What is your view on sustainability?

Step-by-step, we are working on developing a product range with the least possible climate impact. We very much recognise our role as a retailer and wish to take responsible actions to lower our carbon footprint. You can read much more about these in our Responsibility Highlights HERE

Who would you say are your core customers?

Really anyone who would like to add ‘hygge’ and aesthetics to their life.

How important is online and how is your digital transformation going?

We see online as an extension of our physical stores, and it is very important to us that the two play together and complement each other. The most important part of it is that our online universe really is a benefit for our customers.

How are you integrating online with the physical stores?

We keep building on tying the online and offline experiences together by working on making the switch between the two more seamless. A couple of years ago we released our Søstrene Grene app to offer our customers even more inspiring content while also providing the opportunity to shop online and scan products while in a physical store. We have also tested offering digital receipts in the stores both because our customers were requesting them but also to further strengthen the connection between online and offline.

What are the major challenges and opportunities for the business over the next few years?

We are continuing our ESG journey and are currently focusing on building a stronger foundation for our business by investing in digitalisation and logistics. We are doing this because we are looking into a wide expansion – especially in the UK where we aim to have 100 stores within the next 2-3 year – expecting to hit 500 stores across Europe before 2027.

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