Open house: Clas Ohlson store opens its doors to St Albans



Eager shoppers queue round the block to get their hands on 20 percent discounts at new store.

Brass candlesticks and lamps carry a Nordic theme

Brass candlesticks and lamps carry a Nordic theme - Credit: Archant

This morning the much anticipated grand unveiling took place of Clas Ohlson’s newest branch at the Maltings in St Albans.

Starting off with a special traditional Swedish breakfast and speeches from the brains behind the chain of household products, the ribbon was cut at 10am and entry was granted.

There was much buzz around the store, as patrons queued out of the door and round the corner to get inside and peruse the bounty of Swedish-inspired products on offer (spurred on further by the 20 percent off EVERYTHING in store offer that is in place on grand opening day).

Clas Ohlson offers “smart solutions for your everyday life” - it’s very modern, very inspired and very handy. The product range is vast - the shelves in-store stocked with everything from loud blue tools to intriguing modern lighting to bright copper kettles. What’s more, its all backed with generous guarantees.

Bright blue Cocraft tools

Bright blue Cocraft tools - Credit: Archant

Anyone waiting in line was offered sweets by one of the shop assistants, and all three bigwigs of the company were there to mark the event, making the opening that little bit more personal. It would seem that the trio behind the company care very much about every branch of the company.

“We’ve had a strong year, and we wanted to bring Clas Ohlson to St Albans next. It felt like the next step to take here in the UK,” said Klas Balkow, CEO, talking exclusively to the Herts Advertiser. “We offer a new format; a new concept. We have the option to click and collect too, should you want to browse at home. This is an exciting day for our company, which is nearly 100 years old.”

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This is the twelfth UK location for the Nordic brand which boasts over 200 stores in five countries and 15,000 items in their product range. Their five key product areas are hardware, electrical, multimedia, leisure and home.

The 11 other branches in the UK are somewhat larger, making the St Albans store the first in a smaller shopping mall format.

Inspirational artwork

Inspirational artwork - Credit: Archant

“We identified a certain type of location in St Albans,” said Peter Jelkeby, the company’s executive VP. “The demographics and the customer profile just matched up with our brand.” Mr Jelkeby actually lived in Harpenden between 1999 and 2008, before moving back to the Netherlands. “With St Albans I’m coming back to my roots - well, my English roots,” he said.

There’s an elephant in the room (or the shop) though; an elephant named Ikea. But the bosses are happy to bring it up themselves.

“We’re different to Ikea,” Mr Jelkeby said. “We’re not a furniture store. We provide the supporting products for home furnishings, such as tools and the accessories to go with it.”

Clas Ohlson’s style is certainly very distinct, with its Nordic-inspired yet very modernised themes, which run throughout all of its products - from the kitchenware to the stationery to the iPad cases to the ear-phones.

Blue power tools

Blue power tools - Credit: Archant

But what are the favourite products of the men in charge?

“I like the travel section,” said the CFO Goran Melin, who worked as an auditor for 23 years before making the fresh move into retail finance in 2010 at Clas Ohlson. “The ranges of suitcases are new, light and convenient.”

Mr Balkow is all about the tools: “Sweden is famous for its tools. We stock the Cocraft brand, an excellent make, and we offer a 10 year guarantee with them. I’m a bit of a handyman so I love them, They’re great to use.”

Mr Jelkeby was sure to point out his favourite gadget, the battery tester: “It’s small, handy, inexpensive and can save you so much money if you need to test how much juice a battery has got in it,” he said, before sending the Herts Advertiser’s reporter off with a complimentary one.

The store - ready for customers

The store - ready for customers - Credit: Archant

If you’re unable to get there today, fear not. The store will host celebrations across the rest of the weekend, with free gifts for the first 100 customers each day and a competition to “crack the safe” with a grand prize of £10,000.