Marimekko wants to stand out on US market
Experts warn of imitators
By Anna Karismo
“This makes you want to redesign your home interior completely!”
The exclamation came from an American woman to a friend in New York in December at an outlet of the Crate & Barrel furniture and home decor store as she stopped at the new Marimekko shop-in-shop department.
Others who have visited the Soho location of Crate & Barrel since October have said the same thing. Marimekko sparks cries of delight.
Americans, who are recovering from the recession and the winter enough to start consuming again, want more colour in their lives.
“Marimekko gives people a happy feeling and a cheerful frame of mind”, says Barbara Turf, CEO of Crate & Barrel.
There are more than 40 companies selling Marimekko products outside of Finland.
Half of them have been opened under the new owner-CEO Mika Ihamuotila.
The company plans to internationalise quickly.
The United States is a special target. Crate & Barrel plans to open more than 20 new Marimekko sections in stores in different parts of the United States.
“We expect sales of Marimekko to grow steadily in the next three years. The internet will become the most important marketing channel”, Barbara Turf says.
Marimekko, for its part, has the idea that it will test the waters with the help of Crate & Barrel.
The company expects to see its reputation grow.
“Crate & Barrel shops are located in the centres of cities, and they are a great way to observe how American consumers accept our products. Then we think about the next moves”, says Marimekko sales chief Päivi Lonka.
Actually, Marimekko would not even be capable of beginning its 'conquest' of the United States by opening stores of its own, as this would require major investments, which the company cannot afford.
Cooperation with Converse, a manufacturer of sports shoes, is part of the same reputation enhancement strategy, Lonka says.
“We want to work together with high-quality players and to approach consumers who might not necessarily run into Marimekko otherwise”, Lonka explains.
Marimekko does not even want to become a mainstream product.
“The world is full of things, but the pattern world of our prints is something different from what is offered by the competition.”
The biggest risk to Marimekko’s success in Barbara Turf’s view comes from outside.
Her sentiments are echoed by analysts keeping watch on the company.
“Many can try to imitate the Marimekko look, while offering lower prices for mass-produced goods. The same has happened to a few other brands that we have sold.”
Turf points out that the strength of the Marimekko brand is that the company is developing old patterns into new products, and creating new collections at the same time.
“It keeps them ahead of the imitators. There is an element of surprise in the products.”
"The biggest competitors are Ikea and all manner of innovative interior design products that come onto the market”, Turf says.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 25.2.2011
Previously in HS International Edition:
Banker confronts challenge of poppy patterns (13.11.2007)
Marimekko setting out stall to conquer USA despite economic crisis (14.10.2010)
Crate & Barrel
ANNA KARISMO / Helsingin Sanomat