Even from as early as the turn of the 20th century, the small Swedish town of Insjön had been the home of the well-known mail order companies Åhlén & Holm and Tysklinds. Clas Ohlson also started as a mail order company. The company's founder, Clas Ohlson started by advertising technical handbooks worth SEK 365 in a Swedish magazine called Triumf.
Clas' selection was gradually augmented by technical products such as fretwork tools, art materials, boat and furniture designs, as well as cameras and photography equipment. Clas was a gifted designer and very technically minded. With his flair for technology and business he was always coming up with ideas for increasing his product range.
Together with another carpenter from Insjön, he designed a whole range of furniture. The designs were printed in 1:10 scale and, after only a few years, hundreds of thousands had been sold. Clas Ohlson was producing designs and kits for both crystal radios and battery operated valve radios as early as 1925. During the inter-war period, the company grew considerably and helped spread an interest in technology throughout Sweden. For 60 years, right until his death in 1979, Clas dedicated himself to his vision, his company and life's work. His son, Tore Ohlson took over as Managing Director 1979-83. Since then the Managing Director has been recruited from outside the family. From 1983-96, it was Håkan Thylén, from 1996-2007, it was Gert Karnberger and from 2007 until the present day, it has been Klas Balkow.
A store was soon opened in Insjön to complement the mail order trade, which was the company's main trade up until the 1980s. Since then, the store has been extended several times and at present has an area of roughly 3 200 square metres. The Clas Ohlson store in Insjön is visited by over 600 000 people every year, making it one of the biggest tourist attractions in Dalarna, Sweden. The shop is also the training ground for all new shop assistants undergoing their two-week training course. Employees are introduced to the products they sell, train in the Insjön store and are schooled in the Clas Ohlson spirit. The company has changed location several times over the years. The Main Office moved to its present location in 1972 and the new Central Warehouse was opened in 1995 and then extended in 1999, 2004, 2009 och 2010.
Clas Ohlson widened its horizons in 1989, when the first store outside Insjön was opened in Central Stockholm. When it was opened, the Stockholm store had an area of 385 square metres. Today, after several extensions, the store's area is close to 2 200 square metres. Since then, numerous other stores have opened and more are under construction at this very moment.
In 1985, Clas Ohlson began trading in Norway. At first, the business was strictly mail order, and then in 1991 the first Norwegian store was opened in Oslo. Since then, several stores have opened and more are under construction.
In November 2002, our first store opened in Finland. Subsequently, since then several other stores have opened and more are under construction. For more information, see our store locations page.
The first store outside the Nordic countries opened in the UK in November 2008. We will be opening several new stores over the next few years due to the size and growth potential of the UK market. For more information, see our store locations page.
The Clas Ohlson catalogue is well known to many generations of Swedes and has been published yearly since the company was established. The catalogue is currently published once a year and is available in Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish and English.