Hema arrives in Britain: A trip to the shop will soon mean going Dutch

The store that's big in Holland looks set to give UK retail a boost – and challenge Ikea

Prepare for the phrase "going Dutch" to mean something altogether different from this week when Hema, a Dutch value retailer with a flair for design, opens its first UK outlet, with plans for plenty more over the coming months.

Hema's arrival will pose a challenge to the Scandinavian stalwart Ikea and newcomer Tiger of Denmark because the Dutch store offers customers similar bargains and easy-on-the-eye designs.

The group, which has more than 660 outlets across Europe, will open its first UK store on Thursday in London's Victoria, with two more to follow soon in Bromley and Kingston. A website will launch next month as a precursor to opening more stores across the UK.

The advance of these posh Poundlands, to borrow the nickname bestowed upon Tiger, illustrates just how much shoppers have changed habits during the recession, a phenomenon that has hit established retailers such as Tesco and Marks and Spencer hard.

Analysts believe Hema could replace Woolworths, which disappeared from UK high streets at the start of 2009. Patrick O'Brien, at the Verdict retail consultancy, said the group "marries discount and value retailing with an Ikea design aesthetic... it's the kind of retailer Woolworths could have been if it had been invested in properly".

Hema itself claims that it aims to make people's lives more fun, by selling the likes of pink frying pans, which are designed in-house. It's certainly popular in the Netherlands where one in five women wear one of its bras, and one in three boys pull on a pair of Hema pants.

Straightforward Hema style Straightforward Hema style But before potential shoppers get their knickers in a twist over the thought of yet more disposable bargains, Hema pledges to sell sustainable products and is extending its "Naturally Hema" brand. Goodies on its shelves span customised cakes to children's bicycles.

The company was started in the early 1920s by two Jewish entrepreneurs, Arthur Isaac and Leo Meyer, who wanted to offer struggling shoppers some cheaper alternatives. The first store opened on Amsterdam's Kalverstraat in 1926. Today, the group is private-equity backed: Lion Capital acquired the company, which generated sales of ¤1.2bn in 2012, from Dutch retail group Maxeda in 2007. As well as the Netherlands, it has outlets in France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Hema aims to make everything about shopping in one of its stores simple, splitting its departments up into Eat, Study and Beauty rooms. Its prices are all in round figures, so £5 instead of £4.99.

And, with more than 43,000 shops now lying empty in the UK, Hema will have its pick of high- street sites when it rolls out stores beyond London.

Mr O'Brien predicted it would do well in the UK where, he said, "discount general retailing has been very successful"; the likes of Poundland, Home Bargains and the family-owned Wilkinsons are all thriving. But he stressed that the sector is becoming more crowded. "They're going up against all the major grocers as well, but I don't think the grocers will lose too much sleep [over Hema's arrival]."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

Reach Volunteering: Trustees with Finance, Fundraising and IT skills

Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses reimbursable: Reach Volunteering: St...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent