June 12 - HEMA, a retailer from the Netherlands, is poised to shake up the UK’s value market as it opens its first store in London. As Joanna Partridge reports it's the latest in string of European retailers trying their luck in Britain.
Forget tulips from Amsterdam. Dutch retailer HEMA is bringing its colourful homeware, stationary and beauty products to Britain. After expanding into other European countries from Belgium to Spain, HEMA is starting its assault on the UK high street. And CEO Ronald van Zetten believes they offer something different. SOUNDBITE: Ronald van Zetten CEO, HEMA, saying (English): "By designing all the products ourselves, we control the full supply the chain and the quality of the products really stands out. We think and believe that products shouldn't look cheap, even if they are inexpensive." Their products are all own-brand - and 70% are made in Europe. PTC HEMA and similar European retailers have been called "posh poundstores." While their prices are certainly low, they're hoping it's their design-led products which will entice customers into a store whose name they don't know. HEMA's likely to draw comparison with other European retailers - inlcuding the recent arrival in Britain, Tiger of Denmark, and Sweden's IKEA. Brands known for their design aesthetic are faring well with post-recession shoppers, says Patrick O'Brien, a retail analyst at Verdict. SOUNDBITE: Patrick O'Brien, Retail analyst, Verdict, saying (English): "UK consumers are feeling a little bit more confident, they're willing to spend just that little bit extra, and while these are good value pricing, they are slightly higher of course than the pound stores, and Wilkinson, and maybe slightly higher pricing than Tiger, but I think people are prepared to pay that little bit extra at the moment as long as value is there." HEMA's testing the waters in the UK with three stores initially - and an online shop to follow. It may not pose a threat to established UK chains yet - but HEMA's expansion plans are gathering pace.