Store of the Month December 2022: Friendhs
At Södertorg in central Visby we find the Store of the Month, Friendhs. The store has been around since 1997 and has since 2001 been run by Annelie Norrby, the store is a family business and Friendhs was started by Annelie’s brother. In the interview, Annelie shares her best recipes for success and what motivates her to continue running the store.
Tell us about Friendhs, how did it all start?
In 1997, my brother and a colleague of his got an idea to open a fashion store on Gotland, mainly aimed at Gotlanders, because at that time the selection of designer clothes was very limited on the island. The first brand that was brought in and which was the basis for opening Friendhs was Filippa K and we still sell that brand today. After a year or so, they needed someone to help them in the store and that is how I started my retail career. Of course, I got stuck in this fantastically fun job and it was a big contrast to the nursing profession that I had at the time. After a year or so, I bought in as a co-owner and then took over the entire operation of the store in 2001. Since then, we have moved and expanded the store. Since 2013, we have been located at Södertorg in Visby and we sell both men’s and women’s wear.
What is the most fun about running a store?
All of the lovely customer meetings! Clothes are important; they can strengthen a person’s self-confidence and you know you have succeeded when customers leave the store with a smile and come back again to ask for help with their next purchase. Many also come into the store to get inspiration and it is absolutely fantastic to get such a response!
What would you say is your greatest asset?
Our greatest asset is of course all our customers. Without them, no Friendhs. We build our range according to what we like but always listen to our customers. We buy in smaller assortments of certain garments, but also that we have the freedom to shape the store as we want – whether it concerns exposure or the purchase of new brands. Sustainability is also very important to us and it is something that the customers appreciate, we have worked with sustainability for over 20 years and we have been with many of our suppliers on their sustainability journeys. Our biggest challenge is to make the season last longer. We, who operate on an island that is well visited in the summer, we have a busy period and it is difficult to keep up when we have a lot of customers and then when it all of a sudden slows down. However, after the pandemic, we have noticed that customer flow has increased even after the summer. We have also noticed that the off-season has gotten better, as we have many new arrivals to the island and there have been more weekend visits due to, among other things, cruise ships.
Photo: Kristofer Djerf from Oscar Jacobsson and Kalle Hammar from Nudie jeans visiting for the 25th anniversary.
What would you say is your biggest recipe for success?
To really see the customer is the most important thing and never to ignore anyone who comes in. When you come to us, you should feel welcomed and not forced to buy anything. I have a fantastically well-liked and competent staff. My colleagues Anki and Emelee are a super team who have many years of experience in the industry and are very professional. They have a solid education in textiles and have worked in stores for many years. We also work hard with social media, many customers come in to buy an item thanks to us posting it on Instagram or Facebook. Since 2014, we also run an online store. Live shopping, which we recently started, we believe in a lot. It is fun and innovative for customers who do not have time to come to the store and they can also watch the livestream afterward. We used to work more with customers evenings, but after the pandemic, live shopping is a great alternative. We also have our fantastic suppliers with whom we have worked for a long time, many of them for over 20 years.
What motivates you to run a store?
I am going to be honest and say that I have many times been close to being burnt out.Running a store is a lot of work. You are in charge of everything such as purchasing and finance, you also have a great responsibility when it comes to being able to retain your staff. Unfortunately, you can not do everything yourself, you have to be good at delegating and running the store, and to be a team together and help each other. Even if I doubted and was tired many times, I would never want to change course. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, so it is well ingrained to work hard and find joy and positivity in what you do, even though you encounter setbacks sometimes. I thank my parents for that, and to think it has been 25 years this year!
Friendhs on social media
In the photo to the left above: Adam Cole/Anki Engqvist, Annelie Norrby and Emelee Engtröm.