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Shopped: Clas Ohlson

Now on sale: everything you ever wanted - but didn't know you did

Published on April 30th 2010.


Shopped: Clas Ohlson

Where is it?
Clayton Square Shopping Centre, Liverpool, L1 1QR.

Tagline
Usefulthings (sic) for the sunshine times

History
The story of Clas Ohlson began back in 1918, when Mr Clas Ohlson from the small Swedish town of Insjön decided to see solutions rather than problems, and started selling things that made day to day life easier. A bit like an FW Woolworth with northern lights.

He gradually introduced technical products such as fretwork tools, art materials, boat and furniture designs, as well as cameras and photography equipment. Clas was a clever clogs. With his flair for technology and business he was always coming up with ideas for increasing his product range.

Clas was producing designs for furniture and kits for both crystal radios and battery operated valve radios as early as 1925. During the inter-war period the company grew considerably and helped spread an interest in technology throughout Sweden and eventually grew to over 100 stores. For 60 years, right until his death in 1979, Clas dedicated himself to his vision, his company and life's work.

These days the head honcho is a chap called Klas Balkow, not to be confused with the character in the long-running TV soap, Koronation Gata.

Who shops there?
People who didn't know they needed all these useful things until they went in Clas Ohlson. The secret of the success. The place was packed with young and old with a useful staff of 30 scurrying around the two-storey shop, on the site of Zavvi, navigating the hordes and helping searches through the vast ranges of well, “usefulthings”.

“Our Dave's got one of them meat thermometers, you know,” revealed one lady customer within earshot. “Well he would, wouldn't he. He's always been a sodding mammy's lad,” muttered her male companion.

What does it sell?“Axes for £5”, which was the advertising blurb on the side of the shop in the days prior to opening. It worked, with big queues lining Basnett Street and Church Street all the way down past Primark on the opening day this week (Thursday).

Clas Ohlson sells everything, apart from groceries and clothes. Tents, tools, wheels, rat traps, pet bowls, lights, patio weeders, electrical circuit boards, tea bag squeezers, pots, pans and computer accessories. Name it, go on. There are a bewildering100,000 lines in stock.

Those who flocked to Liverpool this week were lured by the promise of tree loppers for under a tenner and ridiculously cheap DVD-MP4 players.

Why would you buy all this?
Beacause you can. The massive crowds that flocked there on the opening day were chickenfeed compared to the numbers that beat a path to the Insjön store where Clas Ohlson began. Every year it is visited by over 600, 000 people making it one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Dalarna region of Sweden. Blimey.

Like Ikea, they enjoy their wacky, hurdy gurdy spellings on products too – but it doesn't matter of you don't know your rs from your umlaut – a portable drinking vessel for a dog is a forslutbar in any language.

Shelf life?
Good. In the absence of Woolies, an Ikea which is too far away for the car-less, and, back in time, Blacklers basement, this place should find a grateful consumer base of students and apartment dwellers. You know, the sort of people who go into a shop for a tube of Araldite and come out with a garden swing.

Also, Clas Ohlson gets a thumbs up for reviving footfall in a lonely bit of the city centre since the wholesale emigration of retail to Liverpool One.

Verdict
For all your scented candle and claw hammer needs.

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Stanley StreetApril 29th 2010.

My axe from Wilko's was £3 but this place sounds like the cat's moustache!

Y. FrontApril 29th 2010.

Is it for detecting the 23rd President of the French Republic? How useful is that?

DigApril 29th 2010.

I bought a sarcasm detector there yesterday which is extremely useful.

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