by Michelle Hespe
When Bahne was established in 1965 in Denmark, they were already ahead of the game and vastly different from other retail outlets. The business was not just focused on offering customers a store filled with products that they could purchase, but rather, on creating an experience for shoppers. This might be a typical approach in retail now, but it certainly wasn’t back then.
“My father was engaged as a consultant in the business, visiting many stores in the country at the time, and he saw an opportunity to do something else. Something different,” explains Jacob Sorensen, Owner of Bahne. “The idea was to present more gift and decoration articles and less hardware, while also adopting the motto: ‘Take a walk in Bahne’. Meaning, he wanted to encourage customers to browse and experience the store. Back in those days, this was an entirely new, innovative concept, as in most stores customers were expected to go to the counter, ask for something specific and buy it.”
Fast forward 54 years Bahne has a new mission statement of ‘Let us pamper you’, however the store still focuses on creating an exceptional experience for the customer rather than simply selling a range of exceptional products. And part of that experience is the creation of an exceptional environment where the décor and architecture have a wow factor.
Today Bahne has 20 stores, and the latest 1,300 m2 one that opened in 2018 has four entries, a soaring ceiling up to 18 meters in height and the piece de resistance– a 130-square meter wall decorated with a stunning wall painting by acclaimed Danish artist Rene Holm. Visiting Bahne is to step into a world of luxury and fine taste. Four different types of wood have been used in the striking architecture and décor, and the 240-square meterwindow on the 1stfloor gives the business a perfect place to show off its 10-meter wide logo. It’s physical branding at its most impressive.
The space is one thing, but Bahne also places much emphasis on atmosphere, and although the building enhances the luxurious, calming atmosphere, the staff are pivotal to creating an environment that customers love to be in and return to.
“We have a set of values – chosen, embraced and nurtured by our staff – and these are based on being honest, trustworthy, hardworking and fun at the same time. We believe that a good social climate among staff is the key to good service. The customers can feel it, and the sales people perform better when they are happy with their workplace and are properly educated and trained. Our staff are key to our success.”
Bahne’s staff also embrace technology and innovation, and the centrally located internet browsing and online purchase + click and collect facility means that customers can purchase on the run, or simply spend time perusing the goods online and in a physical sense at the same time. Being at the forefront of technology is something that the company strives to perfect. “When the basics of running a retail operation are all in order, especially having a good presence on mobile devices, as everyone uses them now, it is all about being on top of the website 365 days a year, 24 hours a day,” says Jacob. “And just like in the physical store, it is essential that we show the right products at the right time, at the right price.”
As all great retailers today know, keeping customers engaged and excited through social media is an imperative element of keeping a business thriving.
“We are constantly working with our social media approach, and we have discovered through experience that it is important that our social channels work on their own terms – meaning that our social media approach is not necessarily based on the same strategy as the rest of the business. We have found that it is important to allow a different approach to evolve through stories and a human touch. So we see social media as a sales channel and tool, but not as a direct one.”
Regular events are also an important element of Bahne’s marketing plan that assists with building up its social media and online presence. The store hosts things such as skincare-focused evenings run by a famous TV host, a girl’s night with special offers, treats and bubbles. This generates free media for Bahne, via its customers. “We find that when a young person’s attention is captured, their enthusiasm is really high and the word of a product or offering is spread faster across their multiple networks,” explains Jacob.
Becoming a Global Honoree at the IHA’s giaawards in March has been a major highlight in the company’s long history, and the application process also helped Jacob’s team to analyze the business from a different perspective.
“When you are forced to present what you do – and have done in the past – it’s an interesting exercise that you learn a lot from, as it’s rare that you sit back and look at every single aspect of your business and then think about how what you are doing stacks up with what others in the industry are doing,” Jacob says. “We were very impressed by the International Home + Housewares Show (now The Inspired Home Show) as well, and also the fact that so many people in the industry gathered for the social events. This is increasingly harder, we find, as people are more and more busy these days, but when you do it in ‘Oscar’ dimensions, people do show up!”
There is no doubt that Bahne will continue to evolve yet always focus on the experience that it delivers to customers. “Retail is a tough business, and you must make sure that you have something different to offer people when you create a concept,” says Jacob. “We don’t believe in ‘correct demographics’. We believe in being something special for a number of people (enough to ensure a good business), while acknowledging that we cannot be something special for everyone. It’s all about remaining relevant.”
To learn more about Bahne, visit www.bahne.dk.
Sponsored and organized by The Inspired Home Show and the International Housewares Association (IHA), gia (IHA Global Innovation Awards) is the world’s leading awards program honoring overall excellence, business innovation and creative merchandising in homegoods retailing. For more information about the gia retail program, the co-sponsors, or participating in 2019-2020, contact Piritta Törrö at email@example.com. Additional information on gia is also available online.