Be bold, make a commitment and try!
From a timeless tradition to modern magnetism at Sønnik in Kristiansand, where despite aiming to attract younger people, they haven’t forgotten the 90-year-old man
In the heart of Kristiansand, along bustling Markensgata, you can find an independent shopping centre called Lillemarkens. In the menswear store, Sønnik, with roots dating back to 1885, it’s been possible to buy clothes since 2016.
Sønnik was a family-run business for many years, but in 2008 it was taken over by Torfinn Skuland.
Skuland was not, however, a novice. He started his career here as a warehouse worker in 1992, where he was quickly picked out to work on the front line serving customers.
Store refreshment and location are somewhat interconnectedTorfinn Skuland
– I really enjoyed working in a store, so that’s where I ended up. It might have been fate or just a door that opened … In a way, things just happened. So, now I’m a hard-working store owner. It’s been a few years now too!
When Skuland took over the store, it was located in the high street in Kristiansand. Skuland was facing high rent prices, and in the search for solutions, he came across premises in an nearby side street – already fitted out for selling clothes.
– This is when I started ‘my Sønnik’, if you can call it that, with largely the same brands that I previously worked with at Sønnik.
However, when the urban block was about to be demolished, they had to think innovatively. Lillemarkens Centre then became Sønniks second home.
– In your opinion, how important is location?
– Very important. Since Vinmonopolet is located in the basement with a lot of foot traffic, especially at the weekends, many people now drop in randomly. This makes the store visible to a great number of people. I didn’t have as much foot traffic during the first few years at Lillemarkens as I do now. I think store refreshment and location are somewhat interconnected.
Key to attracting younger customers
Sønnik has always been aimed at a mature customer group. When Skuland wanted to change this, he sought external input:
– I spoke to Kristine Andersen at Texcon about brands: “What should I do? We need slightly younger customers!” She said “Speak to the people at Morris, they’re very nice. Try that and we’ll start from there.”
And with that, customers suddenly started walking into the store.
– Did you have butterflies in your stomach?
– I’m not very concerned about trying new brands – I think they should be tested. If they don’t work, I won’t go bankrupt if I have to sell a few clothes at half price.
So, Skuland’s train of thought has been: “Be bold, make a commitment and try!”
– Brand building is the clue here. I’m also very loyal when it comes to prices. I don’t have sales ten times a year – Sønnik generally has a sale twice a year. I’m sort of anti-sales, but I have sales, if you can say that, he chuckles.
– For me, it’s more important that it’s safe to buy a suit knowing it won’t be on sale the following week. It’s a fair and honest way to operate a business in respect of the customers too.
– Which brands do you now offer?
– Mos Mosh, Gabba, Mads Nørgaard, Morris, Lyle & Scott … Meyer is also one of our largest suppliers. We also offer Matinique, which we are very satisfied with selling. Quite a lot of students now drop in. They make purchases, and slowly, but surely, our sales are increasing. We offer a wide variety of products, also within classical styles – as I haven’t forgotten the 90-year-old man even though I’m aiming to attract younger people. I think that’s very important.
Be bold and make a commitment! It doesn`t need to cost a fortune to partly redecorte.Torfinn Skuland
Change is fun
In addition to refreshing the range of products, some parts of the store have also been refurbished. That is, half the premises were refitted, and after receiving tips from Texcon, Expedit and Bjørn Haug carried out the work:
– Oak slats have now been put up against a black background, which looks fantastic. I chose to partly redecorate, even though it was only a short time after we moved, because I needed to merchandise the products in a slightly different way. It wasn’t a major and total transformation, although in practice it was for me, particularly in relation to product placement and flexibility
Small talk with customers
There are always people at Sønnik who know about retail. Sønnik’s employees are largely mature adults, which gives a sense of security.
– You’ve received an ambiguous message on Facebook: “Amazingly good service. They get a man to want to try clothes on.” What do you think it means?
– I think it’s about the small talk we have. We get to know our customers, which makes them feel safe. When a young man wants a suit, he also wants security. Customers are met when they walk in, regardless of whether they’re young or old, and if they don’t want help, we respect that, but we’re there for them.
Honesty is the best policy
– Any examples? – A customer recently came in and bought a tuxedo from me. He also found some braces and wondered if he needed any more. I said: “You can only wear one pair at a time, you don’t need a full bag of braces today. The customer replied: “No, that’s true.” In other words, you don’t have to sell for the sake of selling.
– You feel that you know the people at Texcon
– Do you use social media?
– Things have been flowing smoothly and I’ve been thinking: “It isn’t necessary because things work without it.” But one day it won’t. And then you’ve got to be very good at something you know nothing about.
At Texcon, you can talk to Kristine about trends or Morten about IT, and it`s also nice ålace to meet colleagues.Torfinn Skuland
– If that day arrives, can you talk to Texcon?
– I’m not frightened of asking them about anything. You feel that you know the people at Texcon. The people in accounting have always been very easy to talk to if I’ve had any questions. At Texcon, you can talk to Kristine about trends or Morten about IT, and it’s also a nice place to meet colleagues. So, I try as much as possible to attend the events they arrange. This means a lot to me and it’s been important.
– If we now look beyond social media, you’re otherwise quite active and are mentioned in local magazines. You also hold fashion shows …
– Yes, I decided that you have to put yourself out there. I also thought this when I took over the store: “If you’re asked to participate in something, say yes.” It’s important to show up. You get to talk with various people, and it’s important to be visible as a person as well, not just a store.
– If you were now going to talk to someone directly, who is sitting on the fence, regardless of whether it’s about redecorating or other conceptual changes they are thinking of implementing… What would you say to them?
– Be bold and make a commitment! It doesn’t need to cost a fortune to partly redecorate a store. If you have an old rundown store, it’s a good idea to upgrade it – this attracts young customers. It must be slightly fresher than it was five years ago. If you are uncertain about product ranges, it’s very useful to talk to Kristine. She gives well-meaning advice and is knowledgeable about what is happening in the market. Her input is good, and each time I’ve followed her advice, it’s worked.