The clothes store that grew from home

You’ve got to have ‘something for everyone who comes in’ when you’ve been doing business for 40 years in Lofoten – and want to continue for a while longer.

Located at the heart of the Lofoten region in Leknes, Lofotsenteret plays a key role both as a shopping centre and in the life of shopkeeper Rita Nordheim.

Indeed, Nordheim’s childhood home once stood on the exact plot where the centre lies today. Along with her family, Rita has built up several of Lofoten’s independent clothes stores.

Among these is Zicco, a store which is celebrating its 40th anniversary under Nordheim’s leadership.

The family has also been involved in the running of other stores within the centre’s four walls, including Zicco Mini, Lupin and Skoringen.
“Yes, there’s a great deal of family involved here,” Nordheim chuckles by way of introduction.

Zicco first saw the light of day in 1984, when my father was running Leknes Skotøymagasin. We invested in some new interiors and created a lovely, fresh store within the shoe-shop’s premises. That was when the seed was planted. We were there for a few years, and then my father extended his store. Following the extension, Zicco moved out of the shoe-shop to brand new premises in the same building, and today you can find Zicco on the first floor of Lofotsenteret.”

“Our store needs a wide selection of goods in a number of different price groups to meet what our customers are looking for.”

Rita Nordheim

Zicco, Zicco Mini and Lupin are all connected with Texcon.
“Texcon has been really positive. The practical aspects to do with invoicing in particular are great. You’ve also got these Texcon events where you meet colleagues with similar challenges to your own, and where you can learn from one another. It’s a nice community. And I think that’s important.”

Northern challenges

Nordheim describes herself as a local patriot for “her island”. She feels that what she does is part of a larger social mission in terms of maintaining the local community.

“Of course, you want to contribute – whether that’s by running a store or by fighting for what we have. It’s a challenge for small municipalities. Given that we live in a pretty small place, we really want to cater for those who live here. Then you need to be ahead of the curve when it comes to customers’ needs and wishes,” says Nordheim.

“The whole island has a population of just under 12,000. As I usually say: ‘We actually live on a desert island’. But that gives you the opportunity to stand out a little bit with a wide selection of brands and types of goods in the store, and that makes it an exciting concept.”

A wide embrace for all

To be sure, Zicco has a wide selection of goods and sells fifty brands under the same roof – for men, women and children. Here, everything from In Wear, Part Two, Gant and Mos Mosh to Vila is on offer.

“We have both less expensive and slightly dearer brands. Our store needs a wide selection of goods in a number of different price groups to meet what our customers are looking for. I also want to bring in some plus-size fashion, because I would like us to have a selection in all sizes,” says Nordheim.

No sitting on the fence

If a clothes store is to survive forty years in Lofoten, a number of factors come into play. Being there is one of them.

“I think you have to be sufficiently involved and present in the day-to-day business. If you’re located in a small place as we are, being there in person is crucial. You build the store up around a name. And there’s no doubt that who is running the place is really important to whether or not it will be a success.”

Nordheim explains further: “These days, you can’t afford to sit on the fence and wait for customers. You have to be creative and innovative at all times while simultaneously maintaining a certain plan to meet what’s desired. We’ve renewed, rebuilt, swapped out the shop fittings, we’ve renovated – we’ve been proactive the.

whole time. You could of course just let the store look the way it does, but I think you have to be in development and constantly think anew.”

“About 20 years ago, we could sit on the step and bask in the sun in July, but those days are most definitely over.”

Rita Nordheim

Personal service is alpha and omega

One particular advantage of running a business in a smaller place is that you get to know your customers well and enjoy their trust:
“Lots of times just before Christmas, I get messages like: ‘I need to get my wife something for Christmas; can you help me out?’ And you know exactly who they’re talking about. And it’s precisely this aspect of personal service that is so highly valued,” Nordheim tells us.

What’s more, Nordheim has had a regular, stable staff over a longer period, and they know what they are doing:
“You have to give that little extra to the customers the whole time, and you can’t do that with just having people who don’t know what they should be selling – or who don’t know what that means. Giving that little extra to customers has always been really important to us. And it needs to stay that way.”

Customers want “The Trouser Man”

Zicco is also flourishing on social media and as an online store. Despite the fact that online shopping has come to stay, Nordheim has great faith in the physical store.

“I think customers want to come to shops where they can feel the goods and get an experience of personal service,” she asserts.

Rita Nordheim and her son Tom René Reppe welcome both locals and tourists alike.

The top reviews Zicco has received online constitute a good example that she is right. For instance: ‘Just ask for Tom René and he’ll sort you out.’

This is a tribute to Nordheim’s son, Tom René Reppe.

“Yes, people often call him ‘The Trouser Man’,” Nordheim laughs.

“Most people know who he is. He’s full of life and gives a lot of himself.

Again, it’s to do with the personal touch – and being passionately interested in what you do,” she underlines.

A marked increase in tourism

Moving on, Nordheim highlights the importance of getting the selection of goods right for the location where you are. This applies to the local population, but just as much to tourists.

“There’s no doubt that the tourism we have in the summer has contributed to positive developments in Lofoten. About 20 years ago, we could sit on the step and bask in the sun in July, but those days are most definitely over,” Nordheim recalls.

“We’ve also noticed an explosion in Norwegian tourists in recent years. And of course, Norwegians are the strongest buyers.”

In addition come all the Northern Lights tourists in the winter.

‘That there’s a longer season now means a great deal to Lofoten overall. And of course the tourist trade wants to keep the wheels turning all year round. But that also means, for those of us with clothes shops, that you have to have something for everyone who comes in.”

Zicco in 2064

To Nordheim, the family represents both the past and the future for Zicco. What was, through her parents, and what will be, most likely through her son, when that day comes.

Tom René Reppe has already made important strides into the business, indicating a potential next generation.

“I’ve begun to play with the idea of maybe working a little bit less to start with. But it’s not that easy because I enjoy what I do and I’m not very good at having time off. I think Tom René’s taking over one day will become a reality and I look forward to it. He already runs the menswear and actually does all the practical work, so I take my hat off to him.”

Now though, the party for Zicco’s fortieth anniversary is uppermost in Rita’s mind.
“We’re going to celebrate in April, and we’ve hired the main hall at the culture centre so people can come and join us. Maybe some of our suppliers will come up and celebrate with us too.”

We’re hoping to be here for another forty years! And if not with me, we hope it’ll still be a going concern,” Nordheim concludes.