Clas Ohlson: doing to hardware what Ikea did for furniture

Published:  09 February, 2011

SWEDEN: Clas Ohlson, the hardware chain, based in a Swedish village three hours from Stockholm, already has 11 UK stores but sees potential for hundreds more.

Klas Balkow, chief executive at the retailer said, in the Guardian: "We have 120 stores across Norway, Finland and Sweden, where there is a population of 20 million – the UK has 60 million, so you can see the opportunity."

The chain has been described as part Argos and part Robert Dyas. It has a Clas Ohlson catalogue and the shelves stocked with DIY paraphernalia.

It is two years since the first Clas Ohlson opened in the UK and Balkow concedes that although his British stores attract more customers than branches in Sweden, the visits deliver fewer - and lower-value - transactions.

The company is now scaling back expansion plans from up to 10 stores a year to a maximum of six, but Balkow denies it is feeling the heat as consumer spending falters.

"There's no panic," he says. "There is a long-term commitment from myself, the board and the company's owners. We are not rushing – we are taking it step by step and building the brand." A UK website will be launched in the second half of this year.

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