European Business: Ms. Schwarz, how long have you been with Zebra, and what is your responsibility?
Tina Schwarz: I have been working for Zebra since 2004 and accompanied the company’s development from a small Danish firm into an international retail chain with over 500 stores. I worked closely together with the founder of Tiger, Lennart Lajboschitz, establishing the brand visually and conceptually.
European Business: What is the vision behind Tiger?
Tina Schwarz: Tiger is an inspirational brand offering a very design-oriented, affordable and accessible experience for customers ingrained in Scandinavian design traditions. Tiger stores are places you can visit to explore and where it is fun to shop for people of all ages – young and old. Our philosophy is to establish an emotional connection with people’s lives, with the birthdays they celebrate, the social interaction they have. That is the purpose of engaging with people and the basis of our brand which makes us develop products that are accessible and affordable. We have lovingly designed products and still keep the prices low.”
European Business: You place great emphasis on outstanding design. Are all of the products you offer designed by Zebra?
Tina Schwarz: 50% of our products are our own designs. Some have won awards. Our aim is to design more and more. We have employed in-house designers since 2006. They set the tone, the direction, the essential heart of the design; everything else we source elsewhere supports that. We source candles, for example – that is a very big thing in Scandinavia. We decide on the colours but not on the shapes.
European Business: Ms. Schwarz, since the foundation of the company in Copenhagen 20 years ago, the Tiger brand has gone through an exceptional development. Can you please describe the most important milestones in that period?
Tina Schwarz: The first Tiger store opened in Copenhagen in 1995. We started as a ten DKK store. Everything cost ten DKK. The first stores outside Denmark opened in Iceland in 2001, but international expansion really started in 2005 with the first store in the UK in Basingstoke, south of London. Customers in the UK found our concept to be completely new: designer items at a low price, very understandable and accessible. That was a real breakthrough to start our international business, really important. From then on we have set up stores in many other countries.
European Business: All Tiger stores are operated as joint venture partnerships. Can you please explain the concept behind it, Ms. Schwarz?
Tina Schwarz: Each local Tiger company is a joint venture owned 50% each by Zebra and the local partner. We deliver the concept, marketing and intellectual property. The local partners run the stores. They know the market, the location, the competition. It is an equal partnership, which stands for our founder’s values. We do not do any franchising.
European Business: How many joint venture partners do you have?
Tina Schwarz: At present, we have 44 partners in 27 countries and over 4,000 people working for us. But the number changes every day. We open two to three new stores every week.
European Business: Ms. Schwarz, you in the beginning outlined that the Tiger mission is to engage with people’s lives. Has it been difficult to stay true to this mission while expanding the brand internationally?
Tina Schwarz: We have cultural corporate values. As we have grown so very rapidly, they had to be formulated and articulated much more precisely. Mission and 50% of the products in the Tiger stores are its own designs All Tiger stores are operated as joint venture partnerships. Here: Tiger, London Tiger offers a colourful range of affordable designer products values have to be aligned. For our founder, it is a mission for life. The store represents a value in our customers’ lives and in our own lives. Our inspiration is to bring people together. The most important things in life are friends and family and love and children. That is what we engage with. We bring people together, help them to have fun. The shops and the products are a catalyst in that sense. We do not create people’s lives, but we enable them to connect and have fun together. You can compare it with a party. At some parties everyone wants to dance, feels comfortable. At other parties no one will set a foot on the dance floor. I would like the stores to be a place where you can be comfortable, where you feel rich, can get something nice.
European Business: What kinds of products are offered in Tiger stores?
Tina Schwarz: We have many different categories, which we call houses: home and kitchen items, toys, food, personal care products, electronics, gadgets, party and fashion accessories, hobby items. We are very proud that we cannot be put in a box. We love the inspirational, creative things. In some months there is an emphasis on one house or another. The hobby house, for example, is emphasized in October and February when there are school holidays. For children we have a very strong line of educational toys, including many intellectually challenging toys. Our toys are not separated into boy or girl things. We don’t think in those terms.
European Business: In May you opened a Tiger store on Broadway in New York City. Do you have plans to further expand the successful chain of stores?
Tina Schwarz: We want to continue growing, but not without keeping our culture intact and staying committed to our heritage. We are a Danish company, and many customers do not know this. So we have to be much clearer about this. This is also true for the design aspect. It is not always clear to the customer that we design our own products. But this is very important for us. This is designed in Copenhagen, it is unique and you cannot get it anywhere else.