by Michelle Hespe
Jörgen Eriksson has made his name in the retail industry for blending the things he is most passionate about in life – fashion and design – to create strong, successful brands that resonate with shoppers. Eriksson started out running his own business in fashion before moving on to a managerial role in duty-free stores at airports across Sweden. These roles gave him solid footing in business, fashion and retail, and he went on to become the kitchen and housewares department CEO for NK, the renowned department store in Sweden. With Eriksson at the helm of NK Glas, Porslin & Kök for seven years, the store raised the bar on innovative retailing, and it not only became a Global Honoree in the 2011-2012 gia Global Innovation Awards but also won the Martin M. Pegler Award for Visual Merchandising.
At NK Glas, Porslin & Kök, Eriksson managed to make the store one of the best, most fashionable homewares stores in Europe, increasing the sales of the store by 33 percent, and reducing the age of the average customer from 55 to 35. This was a crucial element of the store’s success, because it is now aimed squarely at a generation who spend more money on high-end fashion and stylish homewares. The spend for each customer also increased – by a staggering 265 percent.
Under the watchful eye of Eriksson, the layout of the store reflected the approach of homewares uniting with fashion. For instance, sales tags are no longer seen, automatically taking away the bargain element of the store, and where there were once many shelves and stacked products, are now long, narrow podiums for products. “Like catwalks, you could say,” says Eriksson.
Fashion was also incorporated into the way that the store marketed its choice of high-end products. “Working with international photographers and stylists clearly conveys everything we do as a company,” said Eriksson in their gia entry. “Vogue can show fashion on the moon, while we can display glass sculptures underwater… Just as you change your clothes or get a new hairstyle, you should also consider the manner in which you mix colors and designs in your home.”
After the big gia wins however, Eriksson made some career moves. He began working as a retail/branding consultant and launched a personal shopping concept for NK Stockholm called Rosenrummet. The idea behind the concept is simple: his company assists people with every aspect of shopping. “It’s a ‘Never No’ Guarantee,” says Eriksson. “We never say no to a client. Anything is possible – they just have to ask. It’s personal shopping, for everything. We do it all, and the client doesn’t have to worry about a thing.”
Juggling different brands and roles keeps Eriksson on his toes and continually surrounded by different stimulus for inspiration. “I love the opportunity I now have to work with different concepts and brands,” he says. “I use my creativity to develop things that I see are needed, with the help of the great people around me. That is really important for me – to have great people around you who can work and develop concepts, and make ideas and dreams come true.”
Eriksson feels that with so much technology in consumers’ lives, it is more important than ever to have nice spaces in which customers can relax while being serviced by the company. “People need a breathing space from so much technology today,” he says. “They need beautiful places to relax in, so we have to take care of every single detail.”
With NK Personal Shopping, Eriksson is also helping people to embrace their own personal style in housewares and refine their lifestyle. “We help our customers choose the things that will make spaces special,” he explains. “Our customers don’t want thousands and thousands of things around them from which to choose. That’s overwhelming. With NK’s personal shopping experience, they don’t need to do the big things because we do them for them – they can just relax and enjoy great moments of self-treatment. The service and ideas always need to be really personal. It’s not the big trends that matter. We make them smaller and combine them, bring them together and put them in our customers’ reach.”
With his busy life and blossoming businesses, the one thing Eriksson never lacks is sources of inspiration. “I find inspiration wherever I am,” he says. “I could be looking at a big thing that IKEA has done – and it could give me an idea for high-end, top fashion. Inspiration comes from everything combined around you, and a lot of travel helps too – meeting a lot of people and talking to them in different ways.”
Eriksson also believes that in today’s world, with more of us spending more and more time online, that retailers need to be more aware than ever of how important it is to have a strong brand presence – in store and online.
“We spend more and more time in front of the computer, and so making your personal style and having a sense of fashion is now even more important,” he says. “You need to create your brand, and you need to create your personal way of existing in the cyber world. Online, you don’t have the intensity of your senses – smell, taste, touch and all of that, so it is really, really important to have your own way of doing things and to stand out.”
Eriksson’s final piece of advice is a simple philosophy reflected in all his work, especially in the case of personal shopping, which is all about placing a personal focus on products that his clients believe will enhance their lives.
“I believe that beauty lies in the eyes of the observer,” he says. “That is one of the important things that you always have to remember as a retailer. Fashion to me, is having your own way of doing things. Build on the things you see around you. Be inspired. And dare to put them together in your own way, and then you find fashion. True fashion.”