: The fast-expanding Varner Group, the Norway-based clothing retailer which boasts 1,400 stores across Europe, now has its eye on launching some of its leading brands in Austria.
This fashion specialist which operates some of Europe’s best-loved outlets catering for women’s, men’s and children’s designer, trend-led and quality clothing brands, is currently growing at approximately 100 new stores a year.
The well-known brands in its portfolio are: Cubus, Dressman, Dressmann XL, Carlings, Bik Bok, Volt, Vivikes, WOW, Urban, SOLO and Wearhouse Outlet.
Currently the company, which employs about 10,000 people, has 720 stores in Norway and others in Sweden (476), Denmark (17), Finland (154), Germany (16), Poland (50) and Iceland (four).
Plus it is also a leading franchise partner for globally-recognised jean makers Levi and Ralph Lauren operating under the umbrella of Varner Brand Stores AS, it operates 35 Levi’s Store and five Ralph Lauren Denim & Supply in Scandinavia.
Marching on Austria
Headquartered in Billingstad, Oslo, the company now plans to launch in Austria with four of its biggest chains, Bik Bok, Carlings, and Dressman in March next year, and Cubus in the fall of 2016.
Expansion Director, Linus Hiort, said: “Austria is a very interesting market for us. It has many similarities with the Nordic countries when it comes to population, purchasing power, four seasons and much more. It has the lowest unemployment rate in Europe and a very stable economy.
“The focus during the first year will be Vienna, Graz, Linz and Salzburg but the strategy varies a little depending on brand, and we will expand into all of Austria’s seven power regions at a speedy rate.”
The move will naturally create new jobs, although Hiort said it was a little early to predict the exact numbers, but as an example said if Varner Group opened 250 stores across Austria with each employing five people it would mean a total of 1,250 new employees.
However, the icing on the cake of the current expansion programme, is the opening of a new flagship store in Stockholm of Varner Group’s latest multi-brand chain, Volt, aimed at trendy men and boys aged 19-35.
“The new store is truly amazing and is offers real inspiration for the young man who likes fashion,” said Hiort. “Brands at Volt are carefully selected and are at the cutting edge of design and style.”
Started in the swinging 60s
Varner Group, which achieved 2013 sales of KEURO 1,316,320, has an extensive history which began on Thorvald Meyersgate in Grunerlokka, Oslo, in 1962 when Frank Varner opened the first store simply named Frank Varner.
Three years later another store opened in Oslo and one in Trondheim then in 1967, the name Dressman was launched with the opening of another store on Skippergata, in Oslo, and subsequently the brand grew at a record pace.
In the early years, acquisitions were made, but primarily the company has grown organically through the launch of new chains, brands and concepts to meet the ever-changing needs of its fashion-conscious customers who seek both quality and diversity.
Then in 1995, Petter and Marius Varner took over the management of the company and the development of the Group has continued in their hands, transforming into the internationally renowned business it is today.
Today, about 90 percent of the company’s goods are sourced in Asia and Varner Group has strict criteria that each new supplier must meet before its services are engaged.
Varner Group has its own production offices in India, Bangladesh, China and Turkey, where the supplier processes are carried out.
Communications Manager, Julie Bragli Eckhardt, said: “The Varner Group’s aim is to combine good business operations and ethical conduct to ensure the production of our goods does not negatively impact on either individuals working in our supply chain or on the environment.”
The allocation of new stock is based on sales and current stock levels and is done manually for some articles, while an ERP system is used for others.
Head of Logistics, Anders Eriksson, said: “The warehouses pick the goods every day and send it to our transport for delivery.
“More recently we have focused more on delivering goods to the stores on slot times rather than having deliveries every day. We have a central warehouse for the EEC-market in Sweden, which we will also use to supply the new stores in Austria.”
Steeped in culture
Having a strong culture is the backbone of the company’s ethos as it strives to help its thousands of employees both develop their own careers and treat its customers in the best way possible.
HR Development Manager, Mette Wisloff Egenaes, said: “We develop and operate our business based on a few strong and fundamental values. The values tell us what to focus on, how to treat our customers, how to interact within the -organisation, and the values also help us make the right decisions.
“The Varner Group attract people who share our values and we recognise culture in everything we do, from on-boarding, taking on responsibility and opportunities, development and growth.”
To this end, the company runs a number of different programmes to help the staff development and managers play a key role in stimulating and recognising learning needs.
Striving to ensure the customer ultimately receives the best shopping experience ever and is happy enough to keep returning to the stores is top of the agenda.
With regard to the company’s environmental status it has for many years worked actively towards improving products’ sustainability.
Eckhardt said: “For us, sustainable fashion is about taking responsibility and we work actively and long-term with the entire value chain with regard to environmental and social consequences.”
As for the future, it looks like there is no stopping this fashion giant from conquering even more countries with its popular brands.
Hiort concluded: “Norway, Sweden and Finland are solid bases for us. We are opening in Austria next year and we expect it will become a potential hub for continuing expansion across Europe.
“In five years’ time we will have new countries on our map and hopefully, a couple of our brands will be market leaders in Austria. We have a fantastic culture in our company, diversity, happiness and lots of brands.”