Kolbotn Klær is a lifestyle

First she bought Kolbotn Klær, then she opened Kolbotn Klær at Vinterbro Shopping Center. Now she’s also opened a Kolbotn Klær in Drøbak. What’s next on her to-do list? According to Barbro Ottesen Muri, running a business is nothing short of a lifestyle.

Text: Suburbia

Baby on arm, key in hand

We start by going back to the early 2000s. At the time, Barbro Ottesen Muri was working at an advertising agency, but had many years of experience with retail clothing sales on her CV. A sale ad in Østlandets Blad caught her attention. Kolbotn Klær – in Kolbotn no less – had been a well-established shop for many years, but the owners were ready to sell.

“I had never even heard of Kolbotn Klær before,” chuckles Muri.

“It was quite funny, actually. I had barely turned 30 and this was a shop for mature men and women. It had pine panelling on the walls, valances on the windows and saloon doors in the fitting rooms in the jeans department,” Muri reminisces.
After tying up a few loose threads, Muri signed the contract in 2003, with a three-month-old baby on her arm. When that baby turned six months the following year, Muri had the key in hand.

There’s no denying that this turned out to be a successful decision. What kinds of changes did you make?
“I set a few goals for what I wanted to achieve, the brands I wanted to sell and what I wanted to do from start to finish. I then followed that plan to the letter. And look how it’s turned out!”

Muri switched a few of the brands in the portfolio, but did so gradually since the revenue base was the existing customers. After all, these customer were to be retained before attracting new ones.

My target group has always been primarily customers ages 30 to 60 years –but also people in their 70s and 80s who understand the concept and like our clothes, and I just love having them as customers.

“What worked for us was to slim down our profile and focus more on tabel and street presentations. We found the right employees and discovered that we need more inventory turnover”

Barbro Ottesen Muri

What about younger customers?

“Absolutely and it’s fantastic when they shop here. We have Parajumper, Juicy and all the popular brands that my daughters and their friends also like,” Muri points out.

Openings at both Vinterbro and Drøbak City

In 2016, Kolbotn Klær opened its doors at Alti Vinterbro after Steen & Strøm contacted Muri, expressing a desire to have Kolbotn Klær join the team.

“I accepted the invitation and thought, ‘This is exactly what Vinterbro needs. There have got to be opportunities here.’ And the staff is just fantastic,” says Muri enthusiastically.

This was followed by yet another opportunity: Kolbotn Klær also opened at Drøbak City last June.

According to Barbro Ottesen Muri, running a business is nothing short of a lifestyle.

Taking advantage of the customer flow

There are several business owners at Texcon in the same situation as you: they have the old shop, as well as one at a shopping centre. Is it difficult to have a foot in both worlds?

“No, not once you’ve cracked the code. What worked for us was to slim down our profile and focus more on table and street presentations. We found the right employees and discovered that we needed more inventory turnover,” adds Muri.

Being at a shopping centre is all about taking advantage of the customer flow, right? Which means more impulse purchases …

“Yes, that was the absolute secret for me, as well as lowering prices a bit. You need to get to know the mall well, as well as the customer base that shops there.

“Being independent and able to pick and choose freely among all suppliers is an asset”

Barbro Ottesen Muri

When it comes to social media, we have one employee whose job focuses on social media and the online shop, but all employees make sure that the ‘story’ in the various channels is updated regularly.” Social media is also an exciting recruitment platform:

“When we need extra holiday staff or want to hire a few part-time students, I use Instagram and Facebook to recruit them,” explains Muri.

Customers are quest

But there is one thing that social media can’t beat: a good customer experience.

“This is something we talk about all the time and it’s really about treating our customers as guests, not customers. And guests are to be treated as if they are visiting us at home, pure and simple. If that’s your philosophy, there will be a positive energy inside the shop.”

The art of being personal is emphasised:

“I like to compare it to a stage: if you go to the National Theatre to watch a play, it’s not particularly interesting if the characters go and hide in the corner. You need to embrace your role, go out on stage and give it your all to enchant the audience. It’s no different in a shop. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you talk about yourself, but that you are available and offer a good experience to everyone in the shop,” stresses Muri.

There are a lot of really smart people who see opportunities, are positive and enthusiastic, praises Muri.

Very pro- Texcon

Out of curiosity, would you ever consider joining a chain?

“No, not as long as I’m the owner. Being independent and able to pick and choose freely among suppliers is an asset. That is, if you actively keep up with developments.”

As an independent business owner, do you feel like part of Texcon?

“I’m one of those who is very pro-Texcon, who understands its usefulness and importance. Texcon is a fantastic initiative; they’re very helpful with things we need, have good suggestions for banking and online solutions and are a great partner in all areas.”

Not a job, but a lifestyle

How much time do you spend staying up to date and managing the business?

“If you ask my family, they’ll say I work 24/7. So, that’s a very hard question to answer. It’s a lifestyle. I also think that if you don’t consider it a lifestyle, you can’t run a business this way.”

That’s the general consensus among most shops that are successful in Norway. “Yes, it’s a very exciting and rewarding job and I actually think you need to use your brain more than when working normal hours.

I absolutely love what I do. And I work in a sector that is very dynamic: there

are a lot of really smart people who see opportunities, are positive and enthusiastic. There’s a lot of good energy in the sector among everyone working in it.”

You are clearly an energetic strategist. When it comes to your goals for the future, do you plan to keep growing?

“That thought has crossed my mind, absolutely!” concludes Muri.