Eating while running between two shops
In the midst of the pandemic, Anita Knudsen opened her second shop on Storgata in Lillehammer. The first one, Tendenza, is for women. The second one, Tendenza Maestro, is for men.
You opened a women’s retail shop that is twice as large as the old one and turned the old one into a shop for men. That’s quite a shift!
“Yes, the idea to start something for men had been rolling around my head for a while when a vacant space on Gågata became available, so it was simply a matter of seizing the opportunity, even though we had just remodelled the shop in 2019. The new space was completely renovated in the same style as the ‘old one’.”
And you managed to make a profit already the first year?
Both times that Anita Knudsen has renovated, she has enlisted the help of Bård Løkenhagen, owner and CEO of Inter-Partner Nor.
“I’ve noticed that people are prioritising quality more nowadays.”Anita Knudsen
“I talked to several potential candidates with different ideas, but I remember perfectly the first time Bård walked into the shop. We talked a bit about how I wanted it to look and he then started asking all kinds of odd questions, like how I spent my time outside of work. I thought to myself, ‘Here’s someone who thinks outside the box.’ But when he returned with sketches, he said, ‘You know, Anita, since you’re someone who fly fishes for salmon and hunts moose, we need to bring nature to you,’” Knudsen recalls.
That sounds about right. The shop is your brand. So, it may not be a bad idea to create something that is all you.
“That’s what I was looking for. We ended up with wood, stone and photo wallpaper of the woods in the shop.”
Are you completely in control or taking a chance?
“As they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained… We took the chance to expand with a men’s shop during a pandemic. And we had to stand by that decision. I choose 11 September as the opening date for Tendenza and 18 September for Maestro, so both would be up and running before hunting season. I remember Bård saying, ‘This is borderline insane, Anita.’ I set aside ten days for the renovation, plus a week between the openings. So, there was no room for error, right? But we made it happen by working around the clock.”
The importance of redefinition
What was opening day in September 2021 like?
“I never dreamed that so many people would come. We opened at noon and had set up a large table with bubbles and chocolate, and by three-thirty, there was not a single champagne glass left.”
How important is it to redefine?
“It’s important to remodel, but it’s also important to redefine the shop between remodels. Of course, you don’t need to renovate the entire shop. You can take certain elements and turn them into something new. We also redo the shop often, both the displays and walls. For example, we’ve now grouped our brands more,” explains Knudsen.
And how are things going these days?
“Sales have increased since we opened in 2021. It’s been a blast. We’ve been successful with our women’s shop all these years. We’re just getting started with the men’s shop, but I’m very confident it’ll also be a success.”
Trust, honesty and passion
In Lillehammer, you have not only local customers, but regulars with a cabin in the area, as well as tourists.
“Yes, and we have a fantastic shopping street and our city is very popular with tourists and travellers. There are lots of activities of different kinds in both the city and surroundings. Lillehammer and the area have become a very popular destination during the summer and the pedestrian street here is so crowded in summertime that it’s sometimes more of a ‘standing street’,” explains Knudsen.
Tell a bit more about your customers.
“I have customers of all ages and types. I’ve noticed that people are prioritising quality more nowadays. It costs a little more, but is longer-lasting in terms of sustainability.”
“It’s important to remodel, but it’s also important to redefine the shop between remodels”Anita Knudsen
Are you able to be in both the women’s shop and men’s shop every day?
“Well, I run between the two. There are quite a few people in Lillehammer who know when I have my lunch break because I eat while I’m rushing between the two shops.”
How many employees do you have?
“We have a total of twelve staff members. And I’m grateful for each and every one of them. Without them, none of this would be possible. I think lots of customers shop here because of the high service level. That may very well be most important of all. It’s about trust and the honesty and compassion of the people who work here.”
Where do you find seasonal help? Do you hand pick your employees?
“Yes, I do. Selling can be learned to some extent, but you have to like to talk to people and be honest; that builds trust in customers.”
Two shops is enough
Do you ever get tired of this lifestyle?
“No, never. I absolutely love going to work every day.”
No plans to expand further?
“No… How on earth would I manage to be in three shops in one day?” laughs Anita Knudsen.