Range development begins with knowledge and understanding of our customers and their needs. Product purchasing begins with an idea of what our customers are going to want. That idea might come from our customers, a technological change in the market, major market trends or the continued development of an existing product in our range. Our purchasing organisation has its ear to the ground, enabling it to react quickly to identified or future customer demand.
This approach means that we can continuously develop our offering of smart solutions – be it a product or a service. We can buy in finished products that complement our offering, or we can help to develop products. We can also design products ourselves.
Our broad range and millions of customer interactions mean we have both a responsibility and an opportunity to contribute to the sustainable development of society. Actively offering more products that encourage a more sustainable lifestyle is therefore a priority in our work to develop the product range.
Strict requirements and continuous evaluation
For a product to be included in our range, it must meet strict requirements in terms of function, price, quality and chemical content, and it has to be manufactured under good conditions.
We work tirelessly to improve our customer offering. New products are introduced, existing products are developed and modified, and some are phased out. We carefully monitor trends and consumption patterns, while also adapting our offering to reflect local markets.
Continuous follow-up is an important aspect of our work to gather information for use in the continued development of our products and services. We regularly monitor complaints statistics and customer reviews via stores, the customer service function and the web.
About 15 per cent of the range is replaced each year, and our customers can find new products in our physical stores and our online store each week.
We don’t own any factories. Products that carry our own brand names and generic products are purchased direct from factories or through agents in Europe and Asia. Our customers and we have rigorous demands when it comes to function, quality, price and respect for people and the environment in the supply chain.
Clas Ohlson sources products from more than 700 suppliers in Europe and 750 manufacturers in Asia. The proportion of direct purchases was 41 per cent in 2016/17. Almost 70 per cent of all our products are manufactured in Asia, predominantly in China, which is our largest purchasing market, where we also have our own buyers.
Close cooperation with suppliers
An efficient purchasing organisation with its own offices in China, a close relationship with our suppliers, and large volumes mean that we can offer an affordable range.
We invest in close and long-term relationships with our suppliers and over the years, we have built up a strong supply network. This enables us to reduce our buying costs and gives us greater influence over product design, quality and price. It also secures more reliable and rapid deliveries. All our suppliers have to comply with our Code of Conduct.
Before entering into any partnership, we visit the factory to carry out a technical assessment of the supplier’s ability to deliver in accordance with our quality requirements. We make a return visit before each delivery to carry out quality checks, for which there is an established procedure.
We carry out extensive product tests and guarantee that our products fulfil all legal requirements before they reach our sales channels.
The first inspection takes place when our engineers test sample products, which the purchasers bring back from trade fairs and purchasing trips. No order is placed until our engineers are satisfied that the product meets our expectations and the supplier has passed a sustainability audit. We also visit the factory and carry out production inspections and a final inspection prior to delivery. We then follow up on activities on a regular basis.
The starting point for our risk assessment model, which determines how these extensive checks are to be performed, is the product category and type of brand. For our own brands, each individual delivery has to pass rigorous checks and tests before it leaves the factory.
Our own brands have lengthy guarantees – up to ten years.
Packaging is an important factor in our products; not only does it have to provide protection during transport, both to the store and then to the customer’s home, but it also has to show the product to the best advantage and be easy to work with in the store. Recycling is also important, and we are always looking for new ways to reduce our packaging waste. Our packaging must be as sustainable as possible and easy to recycle.
Today when we identify and launch a new product, we also analyse and optimise its packaging. We look at everything from choice of material and design to, in some cases, whether we can get rid of the packaging altogether.
We set packaging requirements for our suppliers too because we want to avoid unnecessary packaging, particularly for products that are sold in large volumes.
Logistics and supply chain
Our range includes almost 15,000 items. All products pass through our large distribution centre in Insjön, where the goods are repacked and sent out, either to our stores or direct to the customer. The distribution centre in Insjön is the Group’s logistics hub.
Logistics is a key component in Clas Ohlson’s business, and so an efficient flow of goods with low CO2 emissions is vital for success.
Virtually all goods from Asia arrive in Gothenburg by sea and are then transported by rail up to Insjön. Sea and rail transport both have a good CO2 profile. The majority of goods from Europe are consolidated to form larger deliveries and transported by rail from Helsingborg to Insjön.
We are working hard to identify more environmentally acceptable transport solutions that can further reduce our CO2 emissions.
Sales and servicing
Clas Ohlson’s sales are conducted through easily accessible sales channels that offer good customer service. Most of our sales currently come from our physical stores, but we offer our products and interact with our customers through a number of integrated sales channels.
We have a variety of store formats and continuously develop our concepts to ensure that they reflect the stores’ locations, local competition and customers’ needs. The largest store in terms of range of products is, of course, our online store.
We offer a unique servicing option through our own workshops in Insjön, which aims to extend the service life of the products we sell.
Product use and recycling
Our products must be easy to reuse and recycle. Materials, chemicals and packaging are all things we need to consider. A long life is essential to reducing a product’s impact on the environment and our climate.
We believe in wear, but not waste; our cost-conscious and environmentally aware customers appreciate the fact that we stock over 10,000 spare parts.