Lars Axelsson: "Amsterdam is important in the expansion of Arket"
2 Mar 2018
Arket has opened its first store in the Netherlands. Located in the capital city of Amsterdam, the debut store from H&M Group's newest retail concept officially opened its doors to the public at 12 pm. Prior to the store launch, FashionUnited took a moment to speak to Arket's Managing Director, Lars Axelsson.
"As a large European city, Amsterdam is important in the overall expansion of Arket," says Axelsson ahead of the official store opening to FashionUnited NL. The Amsterdam store opening comes after Arket opened its first physical store in London and launched online in 18 countries last summer. Since then, H&M has been busy expanding its new retail concept, opening stores in main cities, such as Munich, Brussels and Copenhagen. Amsterdam marks the opening of the fifth Arket store. "The strategy for Arket is to be where our customers are and Amsterdam is such a city," continues Axelsson.
The building itself is spacious, conveying a sense of calm and tranquillity as well as light - exactly the areas in which Arket aims to stand out and Axelsson is very pleased with the store's location. "We wanted to create a store where people can come and relax for a while, a space where they can just breathe and be, instead of being stressed by all the bustle of the crowds." Arket's retail concept, which is characterised by its minimalistic, clean and spatial design, offers homeware, womenswear, menswear, childrenswear as well as accessories. The store's interior is specifically designed to encourage consumers to relax and take a moment to pay attention to the details, underlining the quality of the products offered.
"We do not see ourselves as just a 'Scandinavian brand' "
"We wanted to offer something that is relevant to the consumer. We do not see ourselves as just a 'Scandinavian brand.' Even though our head office is in Sweden, our mission is to be a contemporary marketplace, a place where people like coming to to shop. We want to democratise quality with Arket," continues the managing director. "If I want, I can wear everything from Arket - from my socks and underwear to my blazer and trousers," emphasises Axelsson, who shows off his Arket blazer. In addition to offering its own in-house design collection, Akret also offers a curated selection of products from third-parties, in order to cater to their customers every need.
"Other brands have already perfected certain designs. For example, leather shoes, we also make very good shoes, but that does not mean that someone else is not able to as well. Why should we perfect something that is already perfect," says Axelsson. Arket sells products from a number of brands, including Adidas, Nike, R.M. Williams, Ace & Tate, Teva and Nividas, making it a modern-day marketplace. However, the brands featured in Arket are carefully selected and not just added to the assortment because they are Dutch for example stresses Axelsson. "We sell the brands that we sell because we really like them. If we add a Dutch brand to the assortment, then it will also be available in Munich. There we will also say: 'Look, we think this is a good design.' "
"The collection is not completely different for the Dutch consumer"
"The collection is not completely different for the Dutch consumer. We strive to have everything that you can find online, also available in stores," pointed out Axelsson. All of Arket's in-house products carry their own unique number, which links back to their archive. That way, consumers can easily find the same item they are looking for online or in stores. The only thing that is different in Arket's new store in Amsterdam is the café. There, the team decided to add a 'dutch touch' to the Nordic Kitchen menu. "Local products are used wherever possible. For example, in one of the dishes, the goat cheese used is from a producer is just outside Amsterdam."
The H&M Group first unveiled its new retail concept Arket last March, officially opening its first store in August. Consumers first reaction to Arket in all of the countries it has opened has been positive, and the brand has also received good feedback, reports Axelsson. Nevertheless, he does not comment on initial visitor numbers, orders placed or sales for the brand. "We really see Arket as an addition to the portfolio of the H&M Group. We tried to fill a gap in the market. Today's consumer is looking for convenience and ease when shopping on the high street and we aim to offer that at Arket."
So what is the next step for Arket? The H&M Group does not currently have a specific number of Arket stores it wishes open, or a list of all the markets it aims to establish a presence in, says Axelsson when asked about Arket's expansion goals. "We have no figures in our heads," says Axelsson. "For now it is important to keep developing the brand, listening to the consumer and seeing what works and what does not. "We are still a very young brand."
Edited and translated by Vivian Hendriksz