Emile Ruempol, HEMA

HEMA (Dutch Unit Prices Company Amsterdam) is the most recognized and loved brand in the Netherlands. After its first store was opened back in 1926, HEMA never stopped growing. Since the opening of HEMA’s first store in Belgium in the 1980s, Belgium has become HEMA’s second home market. Today, HEMA is a strong international store brand with 650 stores and more than 15,000 employees in five countries. Europe Real Estate caught up with Emile Ruempol, Manager of Business Development, Real Estate & Construction at HEMA, who shared the company’s vision and his view on the latest developments in the retail market.

Please describe Hema and what it stands for.

We prefer to classify HEMA as a convenience store: a store that offers basic products for daily life, but not exclusive products. This does not prevent some HEMA items from being completely original and surprising. All the items in the HEMA range must meet three requirements: low price, unbeatable quality and attractive design.

HEMA has three product divisions: fashion, hard goods and food. During recent years we have added an increasing number of services including our photo service, the HEMA Academy and insurance products.

For more than 86 years we have been making products that are simple yet also exceptional. We believe that pleasure can be found in small things. This is why we develop and test our products ourselves and sell them under our own brand. You can find this exceptional simplicity everywhere at HEMA: not just at the designer’s drawing board, but also in the distribution center, our bakeries and at our head office.

We believe in enjoying the small things in life; in making ordinary things more enjoyable, more special and easier at an amazing value. This ensures that the HEMA brand is constantly renewed and is evident in our product range, our store formats, our marketing campaigns and our development online.

How has the shopping behavior changed in the last few years (eg. online shopping) and how has this influenced your brand?

An increasing number of customers make their purchases online. They are our greatest fans. In coming years, we want to provide a service via HEMA online that is even more customized to individual customers. Retailers who do not respond to the changing buying needs will lose their connection with the customer. Consumers are not interested in channels. The combination of physical stores and online takes the best out of two worlds.

What are your thoughts on pop-up or concept shops?

People want to be surprised. Consumers are hungry for an ‘experience’ in the experience economy. Temporary stores come unannounced, quickly draw public and disappear or go into a permanent form. They are inspiring and fresh. HEMA had a pop-up store in Amsterdam and in London with presents for ‘Sint’ and Christmas.

How do you select new markets and locations (shopping centers, high streets) for your brand? Are you planning to expand into new markets?

Our strategy is to be located where people expect us; this can either be a high-street location or a shopping mall but also high-traffic locations like railway stations and airports. An integrated online environment is mandatory. Consumers can buy online and pick up their order in one of our shops.

We have done extensive research (12 countries) into urban conglomerates rather than countries. For our international expansion this will always be the starting point. When we entered the French market we started in Paris first.

An international organization has to cope with the different cultures and habits in the different countries. We noticed that you need to meet the needs of the customers in different countries. That is why we examined the French market thoroughly before we opened our first store in 2009. We opened a concept store in the Netherlands and invited French people to come and get to know HEMA, the international concept we developed for France and the selected range of products. Especially for France, we developed an original concept to explain to the French what they can expect from HEMA at a glance. The store concept is designed around distinct aspects of everyday life: living, eating, cooking, studying, etc. Each area in the store displays products directly related to the name of the area.

Currently HEMA is planning to enter new markets in Western Europe in the second quarter of 2014.

In your opinion, what will be the new trends in the retail industry in the coming years?

I can pin-point five trends which I believe will shape the retail industry in the near future:

  • Customers want to shop wherever they are, day and night, seven days a week.
  • Personal attention is getting more and more important
  • Co-creation
  • Customize
  • Shopping should be an inspiring experience.



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