Icelandic Husasmidjan chain: Innovative flagship store in the North Atlantic

17 April 2023

The Icelandic company Husasmidjan, part of the Danish Bygma Group, has opened a pilot store in the very north of the island to demonstrate its transition strategy. The goal: a transition from “functional DIY supermarket” to a “building and home improvement hub”.

Iceland may not be immediately on the minds of most DIY insiders when it comes to new DIY store concepts. But the 103 000 km² island at the northern edge of Europe is considered to be quite competitive. After all, four retail companies vie for the favour of the 364 00 inhabitants.

Against this background, it seems very plausible that one of the most modern concepts has now celebrated its premiere on the northern coast of the Nordic island. In Akureyri, the Icelandic chain Husasmidjan, which is owned by the Danish Bygma Group, opened the pilot store for its new image in April. The concept for this relaunch was developed with the British consultancy M Worldwide, which specialises in developing brand experiences across digital and physical touchpoints.

David Martin, joint managing director of M Worldwide, explains the new concept as follows: “At Husasmidjan, it was found that the previous appearance was very strongly characterised by functional aspects – and thus “less attractive for female customers in particular”. Moreover, in certain categories such as flooring or bathroom specialists are “providing much better showrooms with a better shopping experience and a better advise”.

But that is only one side of the story, because Husasmidjan makes around 60% per cent of its turnover with trade and building professionals and around 40 % percent with retail customers. Under its umbrella it has specialists brands: Iskraft electrical wholesale, trade timber, plumbing and building materials along with specialist doors and windows.

So, says David Martin, it was a “tricky challenge” to meet the company’s requirements on 5000 m²: On the one hand you have the trade customers, “and for them time is money”, and on the other hand the expectations of end consumers as customers. The fact that Husasmidjan also has its own garden centre format under the Blómaval brand docked to its locations, which also had to be taken into account by the relaunch, did not make the task any easier.

“Retail convenience is a key aspect,” is how David Martin sums up these requirements. The challenge was therefore “to provide an experience store format that supports that”.

Of course, there is more to developing a new store concept than just sprucing up the sales floor. This is exactly why Husasmidjan hired the transformation specialists from Great Britain: It was about developing a retail transformation strategy that would impact formats, store experience and environment: a transition from “functional DIY supermarket” – to “building and home improvement hub” that combines showrooms, fast track convenience, alongside specialist trade and garden offers.

The “leading idea” can be summarised in three aspects: services (for example training and how to seminars, advice, finance and credit), convenience (proximity, easy shopping) and showrooming (destination and occasional shopping, inspiration). The focus is on seasonal offers and events to increase traffic.

This task was practically solved by dividing the sales area into a “showroom” area, a “convenience” area and several specialist zones. The “showroom” area is dedicated to the electrical, bathrooms, flooring and lighting ranges. The shopfitting here creates a rather homely atmosphere: the flooring is made of wood, the ceiling height is reduced by an implied roof construction, also made of wood. A service hub is placed in the middle.

The hardware categories are located in the “convenience” area. Here, for example, tools, fixings and power tools have their place.

In the specialist zones with their own walk-in areas, Husasmidjan shows off its expertise in the trade. These are the timber and building ranges, Iskraft (a professional brand for electrical accessories) and the garden centre Blómaval.

Across the whole store there are wall side focal areas that are high-lighted in some of these areas and ensure the cohesion across the store – regardless of user or mission. These are paint, timber and building, cut flowers, flooring, bathroom and lighting.

Digitalisation plays an important role in the overall strategy. This is not only about combining the store and the digital offer into a true omnichannel offer. Digital touchpoints have also been created on the sales floor – to extend product range and at the entrance to announce what’s new, current events and latest offers.

The newly built store in Akureyri is Husasmidjan’s 14 th location in Iceland. The average sales area of the stores is smaller than in the new flagship store – around 2-3000m2. The individual modules of the concept developed by M Worldwide can also be used individually – depending on the needs of the respective location “like Lego bricks”, explains David Martin.

There are essentially four retail companies active in the highly competitive DIY market in Iceland. Apart from Husasmidjan, these are the paint specialist Flügger, also from Denmark, the German chain Bauhaus and the Icelandic company Byko. Together they operate 45 locations with very different floor space profiles: the now 14 Husasmidjan locations have a combined sales area of around 25,000 m² – just 6,000 m² more than the 19,000 m² of the only Bauhaus store in Iceland.