Marimekko setting out stall to conquer USA despite economic crisis
CEO Ihamuotila admits investment involves risks
Finnish fashion and textile company Marimekko is seeking a comeback into the American market.
The first milestone of the second coming is a 160 square-metre outlet in the American furnishing chain Crate & Barrel’s department store in the heart of New York City’s trendy SoHo district.
The shop will open its doors to the public today, Thursday.
Crate & Barrel is an old Marimekko acquaintance. The chain has 110 stores across the USA.
The American home furnishing chain and Marimekko’s “love story” began more than 40 years ago, when Crate and Barrel’s owners took to Marimekko’s products in Denmark.
Since the initial crush the American company has had a soft spot for Marimekko, even if in recent years the chain’s stores have primarily concentrated on selling the Finnish company’s textiles for interior decoration purposes.
Now the old spark has flared up again and Finnish and American design are moving under the same roof.
The Marimekko shop within Crate & Barrel will concentrate primarily on furnishing products.
“The aim is to open similar shop-in-shop locations in Crate & Barrel stores also elsewhere in the United States”, explains Marimekko CEO Mika Ihamuotila.
Ihamuotila sits surrounded by Marimekko textiles, clothes, and kitchenware in a Manhattan showroom opened in the early autumn.
The showroom is part of the new effort, as is the experienced local team that has been hired to run the operations in the States.
Flagship stores offering the entire product range are the next step in conquering the United States.
“We hope to open our own stores in the next few years”, Ihamuotila says.
The plans are grand, but Ihamuotila admits that competition is fierce in the American market in the midst of dismal economic conditions.
”In the near future we will open shops also in Berlin, Malmö, and Seoul. I believe we will reap success in these places. In Japan we also hold a cult position. People there form queues outside our new stores. Investing in New York, on the other hand, is a considerable risk”, Ihamuotila acknowledges.
So, is the bravado necessary when huge risks are involved?
Ihamuotila emphasises that Marimekko has entered into the effort well prepared but with the necessary humility.
Conquering the lucrative American market is every business manager’s dream.
“To run our American operations we have selected a trio that knows both the design circles and the retail trade. Market studies suggest that style-wise in their interior furnishing American consumers are giving up the heavy masculine solutions in favour of fresher, more simplistic forms”, Ihamuotila explains.
Ihamuotila admits that the recession timing poses a challenge, but it is also an advantage on the premises side: rental prices even in prime locations are now dirt cheap.
Previously in HS International Edition:
COMMENTARY: Creases in the Marimekko frock (23.12.2008)
CEO Ihamuotila: Marimekko is not for sale (9.10.2009)
Marimekko reports difficult first quarter (9.4.2009)
Banker confronts challenge of poppy patterns (13.11.2007)
Kirsti Paakkanen sells her remaining Marimekko holding (9.1.2009)
Marimekko Press Release