Interview with Johan Aberg

Johan Aberg
Johan Aberg
President and CEO

The retail trade continued to face challenges during...
Johan Aberg is the President and CEO of KappAhl, a leading clothing chain based in Europe. He tells about the challenges faced by the retail chain outlets, in an interview with Fibre2Fashion Correspondent Manushi Gandhi. Synopsis KappAhl has four hundred stores spread in five countries of Europe. The fashion chain has launched a special "Future, Friendly, Fashion" concept for sustainability. In 1999, it was the first fashion chain to receive environmental management standard certification. The company enjoyed sales of SEK 4.6 billion during the financial year 2011/2012. Johan Aberg, aged 52 is the President and CEO of KappAhl since 2012. Before KappAhl he has been the CEO of companies like Jula AB and Bauhaus Sweden. He has also worked with ONOFF, New Sports, H&M and Urban Outfitters. He has has studied in the U.S.A. and has a degree from IHM Business School. Excerpts:

What are the major problems faced by the apparel retailers?

The market has for a long time now been fighting transformative challenges as long-term financial crisis, increased competition: both from competitors and changes in customers’ buying-patterns as well as a fashion with a slow change frequency etc. We are also facing the challenge of long-term sustainable production, for a long-term sustainable business as well as for credibility in customer, employee and other stakeholder relations.

In apparel retailing there is a B2C (business 2 costumer) connection, do you feel that it is more challenging when compared to B2B working type?

The competition is extensive but it is a matter of understanding who the customer is. This challenge is fundamental for all businesses.

What are KappAhl’s business expansion plans? Have you thought of entering the Asian markets?

At the moment KappAhl is focused on strengthening our present position on current markets and on the internet.

You tend to endorse KappAhl as 'affordable fashion’ can you please define this term?

KappAhl has a wide range of fashion for the whole family: all ages, all nationalities, all sizes, all occasions with an attractive price range.

You claim to get 300,000 footfalls per day in the stores, How do you manage this?

Making the visitor become a customer is one of the main challenges of our business. Good marketing and encouraging loyal customers is of essence. Furthermore our stores and our assortment shall be inviting and inspire the visitor to make the purchase.

How does environmental management standard certification help a retailer to do a better business?

A sustainable business and a long-term successful business go hand-in-hand. By helping to develop and improve all parts of our value chain we create conditions for a long-term sustainable and profitable business.

How do you motivate your designers to create something that can have a good demand?

Our amazing designers are dedicated to their work task with a great focus on the KappAhl customer. We focus on contributing valid development of the way we work, i.e the best tools for our design- and purchasing teams to analyze trends and new materials and support in their search for inspiration for upcoming collections.

Do you feel that e-commerce retailing has affected the retail stores adversely?

Today e-commerce is an important complement to our stores in order to support our loyal customers. Our customers both shop on-line and do research on-line before going shopping in our physical stores.

Do you feel that eco-friendly labels are just a marketing gimmick?

Absolutely not. The labels are an important part in the value chain to enhance the development and access to sustainable production. KappAhl's business concept is to offer affordable fashion with wide appeal. Affordable is not just about money. The customer must also be pleased with KappAhl as a company. Our entire product flow – from design, production, transport and warehouse to store – has to be characterized by a comprehensive sustainable approach. We have long been working systematically to address the key sustainability issues in our business and their impact throughout the production flow. Our goal is to put more sustainable fashion in our client's wardrobe. Of these labels is one part. With clear labels, we show our customer what clothes she should choose for sustainable shopping and in this way contribute. This will strengthen and speed up the process to increase the access to sustainable materials.

What is the condition of apparel market of Europe from Jan 2013 to April 2013?

The retail trade continued to face challenges during the period. The long, cold winter and late spring in Europe has affected sales in a negative way for the business.
Published on: 16/05/2013

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of