Sick of department stores that only catered to the wealthy elite, in 1926 Leo Meyer and Arthur Isaac opened their store in Amsterdam for ‘ordinary’ folk. From that day forward, HEMA’s passion and purpose has been simple: to make daily life easier and more fun. Always in pursuit of finding the perfect balance between good quality, good design and great prices, the brand prides itself on being optimistic, clear, accessible, reliable and typically Dutch – promising straight-up service with a smile.
Within a year of its first store’s opening, there were 10 HEMA stores throughout the Netherlands. In 1984, the design-led fashion retailer opened its first store abroad, in Belgium – and the only way from there was up. Today, the brand has more than 725 stores in nine countries, with 19,000 employees serving six million visitors each week. The largest franchise operator in the country, HEMA offers more than 32,000 products of its own brand, which range from apparel to beauty, and home to food.
All products are developed in-house, with sustainable principles in mind, which is why they’re found in most households throughout the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, France, the UK, Spain, Austria and very soon in Dubai. In addition to its bricks and mortar stores, HEMA is there for its customers 24/7 through its online shopping and customer service portal. Responsible for the brand’s rapid growth outside Holland, HEMA International Director Richard Flint believes the expansion of its digital and social platform is crucial to enhancing customer engagement and gaining deeper insight into customers’ changing preferences.
After working for retail giants Marks & Spencer and Nike, Richard joined HEMA in November 2016 and has since gained a strong understanding of the brand as well as its domestic and international clientele.
“Coming from working with two high-profile global labels, I was intrigued by this fantastic 100% unlabelled brand known for great design and innovation. The opportunity to drive and expand HEMA internationally excited me. I knew the business model would be very transportable, both online and offline, and I loved that it was homeware, hardware, food and fashion all under one roof.”
Europe-wide expansion strategy
For its Europe-wide expansion strategy, HEMA uses data gathered online to identify where to establish new physical stores. “In this two-phased strategy, we have created a branding market team in the UK, Spain and Germany, and leveraged our larger footholds in Belgium and France,” says Richard. “Most recently, we opened two stores in Austria – an ideal location because we can use the German border where our logistics, infrastructure, supply chain and packaging processes are already in operation.”
Further on the horizon is expansion throughout the Middle East – the brand’s first venture outside Europe. Richard says the team has identified a huge gap in a notoriously expensive market for design-led, affordable retail options. In January this year, HEMA announced its partnership with Dubai-based retail conglomerate Apparel Group and, together, they plan to open three stores in Dubai later in 2018. “This is our gateway to Asia and it’s the beginning of something big,” says Richard. “Our aim to have large operations in China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan and Singapore is a natural stepping stone in this evolution.”
Truly Dutch, truly sustainable
HEMA wants to make sustainable products normal and affordable for everyone – designing, producing and selling almost all the 32,000 products under its own label. From the start of its supply chains, the brand opts for alternative natural resources and raw materials, partners with sustainability-minded suppliers, continually improves working conditions, supports animal welfare, and carefully considers the packaging it uses.
Do or Die
As it is with every retailer, digitisation is ‘do or die’ for HEMA. Already, Richard has established a strong digital and social media presence for the brand, built on simplicity and an easy and enjoyable customer experience.
“In France, we have the same number of Instagram followers as Monoprix, a business with a footprint 10 times bigger than ours. We offer home delivery and have a strong click-and-collect business in our international stores.”
“We’re relentlessly focused on how to improve the customer experience, and how to make the journey between online and offline across all countries as seamless as possible. As we expand, we’re dealing with vastly different cultures so it’s important to have a tailored engagement and marketing strategy for each one.”
Richard reveals HEMA’s ambitious plan to open 35 new stores this year. “We’re building a strong internal capacity for opening stores. In the Middle East alone, we believe we can open 60 stores over the next five years. Even while we’re opening at so many new locations, we are continually looking for prospective markets and building our next phase of growth for 2019 and beyond,” he explains. “Always, we do as we say. It’s not a complicated idea – we listen to our customers and give them what they want.”