Marimekko Spreads Its Colorful, Happy Wings

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Marimekko is looking forward and backward for growth. The Finnish lifestyle brand, known for its proprietary prints – there’s 3,500 in the archive – is embarking on its next phase of expansion as it tries to resonate with a wider audience and appeal to the next generation of customers.

“For us it’s all about scaling up our international markets and our key markets in Northern Europe, North America and Asia Pacific region,” said Tiina Alahuta-Kasko, CEO of Marimekko. “We approach these key markets in key cities and focus on capturing growth in our existing markets and we explore the opening of new markets, especially in Asia. For example, at the end of last year, we entered three new markets in Asia and opened 17 new stores in the Asian market.”

Marimekko released its Financial Statements Bulletin for 2023, showing that net sales in the fourth quarter increased by 5 percent and to EUR 50.6 million (48.4). The increase in net sales was driven by the growth in international sales and also by the positive development of Finnish retail sales.

Net sales in Finland grew by 2 percent as retail sales increased. International sales grew by 10 percent as especially wholesale sales developed favorably both in the Asia-Pacific region and North America and licensing income grew. Operating profit was EUR 8.1 million (6.8) and comparable operating profit totaled EUR 8.3 million (6.9) equaling 16.4 percent of net sales (14.3).

Operating profit was boosted by increased net sales and improved relative sales margin. An increase in fixed costs had a weakening impact on operating profit. For 2023, Marimekko’s net sales grew 5 percent to EUR 174.1 million (166.5). The Board of Directors will propose to the Annual General Meeting that a dividend of EUR 0.37 will be paid for 2023. Financial guidance for the Group’s net sales for 2024 are expected to grow from the previous year’s EUR 174.1 million.

“This year, we’re excited about the anniversary of our most iconic print, Unikko, which was born in 1964,” Alahuta-Kasko said. Marimekko is hosting Bar Unikko, a conceptual takeover of a Milanese cafe, during Milan Design Week, April 15-21, to celebrate the Unikko anniversary home products.

The design house has a new dynamic store concept that launched at its flagship in Copenhagen in October, following its debut at the brand’s experiential retail space in SoHo.

The brand’s new retail concept embodies Marimekko’s optimistic and creative lifestyle philosophy. “It’s very modular, and ever-evolving,” said Alahuta-Kasker. “The design engages in very different kinds of creative expressions and moments and events and activations in the store,” she said, adding that the store takes its inspiration from Marimekko’s Helsinki textile printing factory with its industrial flair.

“The new experiential retail concept is quintessentially a reflection of Marimekko’s design thinking, inviting participation and engagement through experience and bold, yet functional, design elements,” said Rebekka Bay, Marimekko’s creative director.

Marimekko eschews trends in favor of a timeless and long lasting aesthetic. With younger consumers showing an interest in sustainability, it’s not uncommon for dresses and other designs to be passed down from one generation to the next. In fact, Marimekko Preloved launched, a peer to peer platform where consumers can sell their old or vintage pieces. It’s a testament to demand for the brand’s secondhand styles.

There’s nothing retro about Mari Denim, launching in August. “We feel it was the natural missing piece in the collection,” said Alahuta-Kasker. “They’re also the perfect styling pieces. The starting point was to design denim as if it was invented today. When we venture into a new category, we do so with the intent to address all the aspects of the process, from raw materials, to fabric design, production, and afterlife and recyclability.”

Marimekko followed the jeans redesign guidelines of the Elizabeth McArthur Foundation. Denim is made with 80 percent organic cotton and 20 percent recycled cotton. The hardware is minimal, to allow for recycling once the garment reaches the end of its lifecycle.

“The possibilities are vast, understanding our print archives and what we can do,” Alahuta-Kasker said. “We have a unique value proposition in the area of denim. We’ll introduce Mari Denim to new audiences.”

The world has become very digital, but Marimekko believes that even in this digitized world, physical retail plays an important role as a distribution channel, and the heart of the brand culture. The brand plans to open 10-15 new stores and shop in shops, most of them planned for Asia Pacific. Direct to consumer is at the heart of its distribution strategy, and wholesale plays a very important role, especially in the North America, where Marimekko expanded its partnership with Nordstrom to five doors.

“We’re excited about this next phase of our strategic journey, to bring Marimekko more widely to customers around the world,” Alahuta-Kasker said, adding that Marimekko is teaching consumers to buy less, but better.

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