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Finnish lifestyle store TRE goes international
The concept store TRE, founded in 2016, has taken its place as the flagship store of Finnish design. Now TRE embarks on taking the good news of Finnish lifestyle to international markets.
One, two... TRE!
Who are we, why do we exist, and what do we do?
TRE is an international lifestyle store selling unique and high-quality design products in Helsinki. TRE is serving those enlightened customers who seek new luxury and happiness into their lives. The selection includes interior accessories, fashion, furniture and lamps. The selection is at first focusing on Finnish and Scandinavian design but along with internationalization, the selection will also broaden.
TRE is a shop. One of TRE's most important tasks is to understand what is the role of retail trade now and in the future. From the start the company is built for international markets and clearly defined target groups by carefully forecasting emerging trends and trusting its experienced and competent team and interest groups.
TRE sells lifestyle, design, fashion, furniture... anything, as far as the items accord with TRE's brand and values. A TRE item is well designed, high quality, insightful and supports sustainable development. It can be mass-produced, produced in a small series or even a one-off piece. The purchase items represent a way of life which is ecologically and environmentally aware and wishes to make the world at least a little better place.
TRE is a platform. It is a new, comprehensive, digital and international place to buy, sell and market, physically and online. It hosts both a global digital platform and a local presence. TRE combines social activities, operations that support growth companies and motivate both companies and customers, and even social influencing.
TRE is a community. This community consists of customers, companies and interest groups. In the TRE community, customers are able to influence the growth and development of the company, as well as in creating TRE's own selection with their own consumer choices. Customers will buy unique and original products, good values, and lifestyle.
Trends of retail sale
TRE is an answer to retail trends, combining Finnish lifestyle and a omnichannel store.
Online shopping is killing brick-and-mortar; and on the other hand, successful webshops are opening experience-producing stores on the high street. In the future, the borders between brick-and-mortar, webshop, and mobile shopping will fade as companies need to operate simultaneously and naturally in all the channels. Like in the way TRE is currently operating.
Consumers are asking for experiences, stories and an opportunities to influence from shops. The present-day consumer wants unique and personalized service, as well as recommendations tailored just for him or her. To reach these targets, a store can make use of the digital footprints of customers, i.e. information about where and when they are making purchases, what they like and what kind of items they are looking at.
Furthermore, the trend of sustainable consuming is growing. Finnish design and lifestyle are able to offer just what ecologically aware persons all over the world are increasingly longing for in their everyday lives.
The story of TRE
“The country continues to produce exceptional local design, which can be shopped in the Design District at small-scale, unique stores like Lokal, Samuji and World of Tre.”
TRE was born when Design Forum Shop, having sold Finnish design with a wide repertoire for over two decades, closed its doors on Erottajankatu, Helsinki in the fall of 2014. This shop, important to the design field and consumers, left a gap.
Teemu Suviala and Tanja Sipilä, who had been working for Design Forum Finland, had seen that Finnish lifestyle and design were answers to the emerging trends of retail and consumption. One wishes to consume smartly – invest in high-quality products, which have a story to tell and values aligned with one's own choices of life.
Two years later, in August 2016, the doors were opened at TRE, the concept store of Finnish lifestyle. Immediately after the news of its launch had been published in early 2016, the store received much support both from design professionals and the media. During 2016, an experienced team was assembled to establish TRE, shop premises were acquired in downtown Helsinki – as close to Stockmann as possible – and financing was raised from the founders and investors.
The opening night hosted over 700 guests and the feedback was enthusiastic and supportive. The name TRE depicts the three pillars in the core of the design shop: the customer, the store and the designer, as equal actors.
Values - good living
TRE is operating according to the principles of sustainable development and sells products that reflect the company values. These are good design, quality, beauty, sustainable development and transparency. The versatile selection offers a curated set of fashion, interior accessories and furniture. Apart from Finnish design, there are also international brands in the selection. We demand transparency and ecological and ethical consideration from the products. Most of the brands on sale at TRE are Finnish, but we strive to find the world's best products to the selection, produced as close as possible. We believe that people making good, conscious choices live a happier life.
The values of TRE are born from the world views and insights of its founders and interest groups. In the core are creativity, culture, humanity, sustainable development, ethical issues, entrepreneurship, optimism, a will to influence and make the world better; and faith in the future and joy of life.
TRE – new luxury, happiness & really good stuff
The value promise of TRE consists of seven key issues which are guidelines for all operations:
- For customers: top class customer service, high-quality contemporary design, influencing, supporting, experience, lifestyle, inclusiveness, sustainable values
- For producers and manufacturers: sales, coverage, investments, support, knowledge, new international markets
- For Finland, Helsinki /USA, New York / UK, London etc.: developing the regional brand, international coverage, developing SMEs
- Transparency in operations and products
- An independent actor which can openly cooperate with various partners all over the world
- Company transparency towards the customers (business & product development)
- Being a Helsinkian in spirit (a Londoner in spirit etc.), bottom-to-up, being active, making and doing, values
- The customer is #1; customer-oriented in all operations: lifestyle, service, stories, curating, quality
- Interactivity is underlined in operations: customer/supporter <-> TRE <-> companies
- In decision-making
- In spaces
- In marketing and communications
- In developing business operations
- Clear and focused targets but flexible plans > one must have a chance to sniff around and grab at opportunities
- The webshop (potential local brick-and-mortars will support social issues)
- Active and initiative-taking social media actor
- Digital systems are a self-evident and integrated part of TRE's operations
International / local
- Emphasis on local in the selection
- Emphasis on international in operations
- TRE's own operations are strongly growth-oriented
- Greater opportunities for the growth of design SME's are sought through TRE's networks – this is part of TRE's business operations as well
Vår affärs- och marknadssituation
“The future of Finnish design and fashion lives and is doing well in TRE.“
–YOU ARE HERE Magazine, Autumn 2016
Business operation areas of the company
The main business operation of TRE, BtoC retail sale, is a multichanneled activity in a brick-and-mortar and online. Apart from the store on Mikonkatu, TRE opened a pop up store at the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport on 3 May 2017.
The pop up store at the airport has a selection of fifty brands of fashion, accessories, organic cosmetics, classics and hot names – as well as icons of Finnishness from Airam thermos flasks to shingle baskets.
Tourists arriving from Asia and transit passengers have been especially considered when the selection was made – the shop may be their only contact with Finland. The design calendar of Helsinki, with its fashion events in May, Flow Festival, and Helsinki Design Week in September, also has an influence on the selection of the pop up.
In addition to topical products, the restrictions of flight travel have also been taken into account when choosing sales items: lightweight products, package sizes and easily buyable souvenirs are preferred.
The TRE pop up, with 20 square meters of sales space, has a visible and good place in the non-Schengen terminal T2 at Gate 36. The shop is open 16 hours per day, every day of the week, from May until September 2017. We aim to open a permanent shop at the airport in near future.
Along with retail trade, many business areas of TRE are still under development and their significance will be growing as TRE grows. Many events are already arranged in the store; several of these are press events organized around product launches, which TRE markets as event packages. These events include the space and presentation along with communications and PR.
At the moment, BtoB, media and events are becoming a significant part of TRE's businesses. In the BtoB projects the design expertise of the TRE team is specially utilized, as an example in space and product design and in service design. In the spring of 2017 TRE designed the exhibition architecture and stands of the Vuoden Huiput – Best of the Year exhibition for Grafia, the Association of Visual Communication Designers in Finland. TRE has also designed, in cooperation with Flow Festival, its 2017 merchandise collection. The collection will be sold in store, at the webshop and at the Flow Festival.
Media and content production are an important part of TRE's marketing and brand but they are also a focus of certain business plans. TRE can produce media content at an international level for itself and its customers. TRE's own periodic publication Christmas Zine recently won silver in Grafia's Vuoden Huiput – Best of the Year visual design competition. The statement of the prize jury, "the maximal zine of the design store delights, irritates and fascinates" was to the point, because that is just the way we aim to create TRE's visual world, sounds and contents.
A commercial, interesting and up-to-date selection is one of the most important conditions in succeeding and creating TRE an international shop and online service and a brand. The selection is constructed of thoughtfully curated products, which represent the TRE brand with their values and visual features. The products in the selection have to fulfill TRE's customer and value promises.
The key-words of the selection are new luxury. This term means well designed products which are aesthetically and functionally appropriate, and the products support sustainable development and their processes are transparent. The price or availability are not defining factors. New luxury is about good life and having a humane worldview. Life is allowed to be beautiful, we are allowed to enjoy great things and express ourselves but this should not be done at the cost of the environment, animals or other people. TRE aims to enhance these values in all of its operations. We do not give too big promises however, as the world changes slowly.
The biggest of our product categories is interior accessories and home decoration. Other large categories are jewelry and fashion, and accessories. But the selection also has furniture, lamps and one-off pieces. The items may be surprising, too. Mostly we are interested in so-called "everyday design" but "design" focuses more on gift items and the like.
The price profile of TRE is a little bit more expensive than the average. TRE is actually not a luxury brand but our customers know that the items have good quality and longer lasting values than mass-produced items. We do not market prices but the brand and values.
Target groups and marketing
"This is our store! I got energy from this!"
– New TRE customer in the brick-and-mortar
The clientele of TRE covers all ages from babies to senior citizens. Mothers with babies, families doing weekend shopping, wealthy seniors, men looking for a gift for their spouse, trend-following young adults and ecologically aware women appreciating Finnish design visit the brick-and-mortar.
TRE is the flagship store of Finnish design. Along with Helsinkians passing by, tourists interested in Finnish design visit TRE, which is the standard attraction of Visit Finland, Visit Helsinki, Helsinki Design District, the Foreign Ministry and various tourist organizations. Since August 2016, over 350 foreign journalists and travel organizers have visited TRE.
The webshop serves the entire Finland at the moment. Furniture has also been sent abroad, to Japan, Switzerland and Sweden among other countries, to customers who have bought them when visiting TRE in Helsinki.
TRE's selection and brand appeal to varying target groups. You buy “good mood” and status from TRE, for yourself and as gifts. The purchases can be made on impulse even when speaking about furniture. Customers come to see what's new and also to find out what is happening in contemporary design in Finland and internationally.
The most important target group is the early adopters. Their shopping behavior is taken into consideration in all decision-making and brand building. They buy something because of its use and significance, not so much for the ownership. The items must have a function, and a personal and communal or social meaning. With their consumption, they also want to belong to a certain target group or influence with their choices. It is good if the purchase has an influence, directly or indirectly, on the realization of the values they cherish.
The second-most important target group are the mothers. They make purchase decisions for clothes regarding the whole family, but they also have time to focus on decorating and creating the right lifestyle. They follow the media, fashion, people and culture and recognize environmental issues and trends, as an example. They are active in social media and compare products and services with their peers.
Wealthy seniors are regular customers at TRE as well. They appreciate good quality and they have time and money to invest in decorating and clothing. A timeless style speaks to them as they already have found their own style but at the same time they are not afraid to make bold choices.
Tourists visiting TRE are interested in Finnish design and search for easily packaged souvenirs. Tourists from different countries have differing interests; the most common purchases are clothes, postcards, jewelry, cosmetics, and kitchen utensils.
Other target groups:
- The design field
- Solvent and environmentally aware customers
- Customers valuing Finnish design
- Citizens/passers-by (attracting shop windows etc.)
- Organizations such as Design Forum Finland, the Parliament, the City of Helsinki
Channels to reach the target groups:
- Brick-and-mortar shop
- Newsletters and regular customer program
- Social media
- Mouth-to-mouth, grapevine
- Marketing and advertising
- Brand communications
- Earned media
The staff of TRE is competent, environmentally aware and professional. They are also top salespersons. We recruit personalities that are remembered and with whom our customers can identify to the team. Overall nice people. The staff shares TRE's values. They want to be part of the TRE community and we also want their input to be significant and essential to TRE's growth and success.
We aim to provide desirable work posts to our employees with various benefits and a nice working place. Retail has traditionally been a very hierarchic working community. TRE has a different model, in order to grow a motivated working community. We are also sure that customers can sense the working climate. Who would not want to be a part of a great gang?
Co-founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board
Sipilä was previously managing Design Forum shop and has significant expertise in selling Finnish design. In 2011–2014 she was Shop Manager at Design Forum Shop, developing its operations. She with her team succeeded in three years to notably boost Design Forum Shop's visibility, significance and turnover.
Tanja Sipilä has graduated from the University of Art and Design Helsinki as an MA. She has experience in a designer's work, operating her own enterprises, and managing a store. She has an extensive international network: design companies, designers, organizations, media, and other actors and influencers of the design field.https://www.linkedin.com/in/tanja-sipil%C3%A4-a077903/
Co-founder, Member of the Board
Lasse Laine has a degree in industrial design. He has made a successful career reaching from a serial entrepreneur / restaurant owner to producing furniture. Today he owns ProtosDemos Oy which is specialised in restaurant architecture, and Choice Oy, which manufactures furniture. Lasse is responsible for the interiors of TRE.
Co-founder, Member of the Board
Teemu Suviala is a professional in branding, working at the moment as Creative Director in Collins in New York. Suviala is an award-winning graphic designer and founding partner of the well-known creative agency Kokoro & Moi in Helsinki. His clients include leading global brands, such as Spotify, Coca-Cola, and Dove. Before moving to Collins he held a similar position at Wolff Olins in New York. Teemu is responsible for the visuals and brand strategy of TRE.https://www.linkedin.com/in/suviala/
Salli is designer (MA) by training, having made a long career in fashion and journalism. Her career of over ten years as a fashion editor, in Elle, among other magazines, has given her wide contacts and experience in communications, photoshooting production and various target groups. Along with her commercial career, Salli has founded the international niche fashion mag SSAW, recognized in its genre.https://www.linkedin.com/in/salli-raeste-55938956/
Fashion & Design Director
Leena is known as the best sales person in Helsinki. She has fifteen years of experience in sales, shop presentation and building a clientele of regular customers in the valued Beam shop in Helsinki. As the buyer of Beam, Leena was used to working with international brands. Through her knowledge of human nature and superb customer service Leena creates loyalty customers for life.https://www.linkedin.com/in/leena-k%C3%A4m%C3%A4r%C3%A4inen-5758606a/
Henni comes from the Turku School of Economics. She was making a career at PriceWaterhouseCoopers but wanted to change into business in creative environment. She wishes to create the platform and processes for an agile and working economic function that will enable growth in multi-channeled trade.https://www.linkedin.com/in/hennikinnunen/
Anna-Kaisa is an M.Sc.(Econ) with marketing and management as her majors. Her long experience in fashion trade, B2B customer service and purchasing, combined with expertise in marketing and an exceptionally good visual eye make the basis for her multitalented skills in online trade.https://www.linkedin.com/in/annakaisalehtinen/
Director of Store
Susanna is known as a precise and responsible shop manager. She is a designer (MA) by training and later she also has educated herself in service design and MBA. She is responsible for the daily running of TRE the store and its events.https://www.linkedin.com/in/susannaotranen/
Director of e-Commerce
Heidi has previously worked as project manager in export projects of Finnish design at Design Forum Finland, as shop manager at Partio-Aitta, and has created Partio-Aitta's webshop.https://www.linkedin.com/in/heidi-valkola-9b4b443a/
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General Risks in Retail Trade
Retail trade faces great changes due to the economical situation and the development of online purchasing. In addition to these, the behavior of the present-day consumer, as well as values and reasons for buying are changing, and a successful store has to profoundly understand this change. Many conventional stores and institutions are in great difficulties. However, at the same time they have been replaced by webshops and online platforms growing at lightning speed. Several researches support the synergies of combining brick-and-mortar together with online store. Retail trade is further challenged by the ever-growing trend to buy things directly from the producer. Webshops make this possible even for smaller companies.
TRE particularly aims to make use of these changes and trends in customer behavior and purchasing, and to anticipate the future. It is important for TRE to consider and understand what the role of retail trade will be now and in the future, not just for customers but for producers and manufacturers as well!
Apart from this, retail trade is one of the first business areas to suffer from the instability of the overall market situation. Luckily, there is growth in retail at this moment. To lower the risk of unstable markets, not controlled by TRE, TRE’s aim is to target customers with liquidity to spare. TRE’s selection also contains everyday items which are always needed. The aim is to have the customer consider the item purchased an investment that stands the test of time and use.
Competition in the retail trade is extreme. Founding a new business in retail trade is therefore particularly risky. TRE however faces the risk by differentiating from competition with an original concept and brand and by strongly investing in excelling at customer service, multichanneling and content production (editor-in-chief), by recruiting a superb team, creating added value to customers (values, stories) and by creating and innovating other methods of revenue creation other than traditional retail (signature products, BtoB, events, partner cooperation, media).
Due to the central location of the stores, the original cost of founding and current operating expenses and personnel costs are significant. Opening a new store costs approximately €300,000; fixed costs rise up to €40,000–50,000 per month, and purchases will have to be made. Lease contracts are often also signed for long periods of time. This all means that the location of a store has to be thoroughly considered and located in a place with organic flow of customers. In the beginning of a new store the aim is to lease a location with a shorter lease period. This, however, often leads to slightly higher rent levels. In short-term lease agreements there is then a risk of losing a profitable sales location with the expiration of lease agreement.
Another risk relates to digital operating and management systems and to the environment and ecosystem a store is operated and managed. Digital tools are there to allow efficient working and operating a store in a multichannel environment. Communications, marketing and business analysis is performed online. The challenge is, however, to find good comprehensive systems at a price suitable for TRE's resources. A company usually has to commit itself to a certain partner, tailored solutions are costly and using several tools is expensive, inefficient and slow. TRE strives to win this challenge with its partners by building a platform where the best available tools and applications will be joined in a seamless environment with just single-sign-on and cost of one instead of many applications.