Dutch value retailer Hema is about to open its first UK stores. Will its broad offer prove a hit with British shoppers and shake up the competition?

Why are we talking about Hema now?

Dutch value retailer Hema has signed its first UK stores in the Southeast of England, Retail Week revealed.

The retailer will open a 4,300 sq ft shop in a store which is at present occupied by French Connection in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey. Its second store will open at Victoria Place in Victoria, London. Both shops will open by the summer.

What is Hema?

Hema, founded in 1926 by entrepreneurs Arthur Isaac and Leo Meyer, is a value retailer with a wide-ranging offer similar to Woolworths. It sells own-brand products across multiple categories including clothing, beauty, home and garden, and food and drink.

Kantar Retail insights director Bryan Roberts, who has visited Hema stores many times, describes it as an impressive business.

“Hema is a value retailer but they do it in a stylish way like Ikea,” he says. “They have a credible offer, their stores are merchandised very well and the service levels are high.”

The retailer has a wide presence across Western Europe with more than 600 stores in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg. In the past year Hema has started offering new services such as health insurance, marital contracts and wills.

It is owned by private equity firm Lion Capital, which also owns All Saints. Lion acquired Hema from Dutch retail group Maxeda in 2007.

What are Hema’s plans for the UK?

Victoria and Kingston are intended to be the first of 10 stores in and around London.

The retailer then plans to open more stores across the UK.

Who will it compete against in the UK?

Because Hema sells so many products across clothing, beauty, home and garden and food and drink, the question is who won’t it go head-to-head with in the value sector?

Its primary competitors are thought likely to be value retailers such as Poundland, B&M Bargains, 99p Stores, Poundworld, Home Bargains and Poundstretcher. However Hema believes it will stand out in the crowded market with its more upscale offer.

“There’s echoes of its business across a variety of retailers such as H&M and Tiger. It’s quite distinctive - it will stand out quite nicely in the UK,” says Roberts. 

Roberts believes that as consumers continue to seek out value, Hema should thrive in the UK.