Originally founded in 1999 by two sneaker enthusiasts Erik Fagerlind and Peter Jansson in Stockholm Sweden, Sneakersnstuff started expanding globally in 2014 with a flagship in London. Branches in Paris, Berlin and New York City followed between 2015 and 2017. In 2018 the two founders took on a new Private Equity partner, valuing the company at over $97 million dollars, to hone in on its global expansion plans. The two founders currently live and operate out of Sweden but continue to travel around the globe looking for the next city to put their stamp on. We talked to Erik and Peter prior to the soft opening of the Venice Beach store about the Venice store, their global ambition and why they took on a Private Equity partner.
Sneakernstuff’s Venice Beach Broadwalk store front
SNS LA mirrors the design ethos it has for all its stores worldwide
At Sneakersnstuff LA, one will see heavy nods to the rich and abstract culture of Venice Beach.
SNS LA is designed by Jenny Askenfors of Bofink Design Studio
Sneaker News: In 1999, you opened your first store in Stockholm and in 2014 you opened your first international location with SNS London. What sparked the international expansion?
Peter Jansson: We realized after ten years that we were a big city concept. With Stockholm being the largest city in our region, we felt the need to go outside of Scandinavia. We chose London because it is the closest major city to us. We actually wanted to go to New York in the beginning, but it was a little bit too early. So we went for London and it worked out well.
Erik Fagerlind: We felt like we had the best store in the world, but it was in Stockholm and nobody came to Stockholm to see it, so we had to bring it to the rest of the world.
SN: Today you are opening your sixth store in Venice Beach, California. What did you guys learn along the way of opening stores around the globe and what are the challenges you face from city to city?
EF: We learned that you have to tailor to the community where you are, you can’t just conceptualize and be one thing all over the place. You need to stay true to where you go and understand who you’re talking to. That’s the challenge. Making sure to connect locally.
The store view into Venice Beach
Custom floor logo with shells picked on Venice Beach
The Adidas section is an homage to the infamous “Muscle Beach.”
Key word: beach.
Erik Fagerlind on selecting the Venice Beach location
SN: The Los Angeles area is an obvious choice after opening in New York. How did you decide on Venice Beach?
EF: Key word: beach. It’s was revelation too. We looked around, we looked at everywhere such as Farifax, West Hollywood and downtown. Each good and valid areas in their own, but passing through Venice Beach with all its people, the flavor and the weirdness just felt right for us.
PJ: We didn’t want to be obvious, we’re a destination type of store. When we think about LA we don’t think about downtown LA or other parts of the city, we think about the beach. I mean, imagine working here. You are steps away from the beach.
SN: What elements of the Sneakersnstuff DNA are applied to the architecture of the store?
EF: It’s the obsessing of details that is very SNS, like all the craftsmanship of the wooden sculptures. There is a Nike Cortez pinata, and we ensured that it’s actually the exact colorway of the Cortez that belongs to this neighborhood. So, if we created it in white and black or white and red, it wouldn’t be fully correct for this neighborhood. It’s all these things that Jenny [Askenfors] and everybody at SNS takes to heart. That’s the SNS DNA.
PJ: We might have said it to you before but, after all these years in the game, we realized that we’re not just sneaker geeks, we’re retail geeks as well. We really like retail. In the world, where people are closing down stores, we’re actually opening stores, because we like stores.
EF: It’s different now, too. You can go to town on retail, like on the experience. And it means so much more if you do that right, it actually amplifies a sort of message in the conversation so people will check us out online. Not everybody can come to Venice Beach, but if you make it good enough, people will have that conversation and others will just check us out digitally.
The fitting room pays tribute to the Los Angeles Car culture
M90/Swedish camouflage is used in all SNS stores.
The Souvenir Shop, a favorite section of Erik Fagerlind
We have a working factory-new 8-track player.
Referring to the fitting room.
SN: Are there any elements of Stockholm or the original store that’s been brought over?
PJ: Yeah, we have one of our artists that we work with is a guy called Mander. He’s amazingly talented. If you look at this leather table, each city we have a store in is crafted into the table. You got the London one, you got the Stockholm, you got Paris, New York, Berlin. And here’s the latest one, it’s the LA one, the Venice Beach. And the tables are all hand-made.
EF: It my mind, it’s the Swedish minimalism shines through in this store. When our interior architect designer Jenny presented the plans the first time, we said “this is madness and chaos, Jenny. This will never work.” That was the exact feedback we gave when she did London. That store turned out great. For this store, there is a perfectly balanced between the minimalisticness of Scandinavia and the craziness of this neighborhood.
PJ: There’s always one little, tiny piece that she puts into all stores. It’s the M90 camo, which is the Swedish camouflage. There’s always one piece, at this store it’s the leather sofa decked out in M90 Camo.
SN: You guys talked a lot about the uniqueness of the stores, what’s your absolute favorite part of this store?
PJ: My favorite part is the fitting room, made by Adam Stone Cold. He’s one of the top ten car painters in the world. He’s done an amazing job on this fitting room interior. We have a working factory-new 8-track player. You can adjust the music, sound and volume when trying on some goods.
EF: It’s a tough one because there are so many good parts of the store but I like the souvenir shop. The design is an obvious nod to classic Venice Beach retail but its where horn in on SNS as a brand. We created a new collection of apparel and accessories that specific to this store.
The Nike space in the shop features a Cortez Pinata
We landed on around $97 million in revenue.
The company’s 2018 revenue.
SN: Last year, you guys took on some capital. Why did you take on the funding and what are you guys doing with the capital?
EF: We had a Private Equality Fund actually come in 2015, so we already had funding. They came to the end of their term in 2018 and wanted to exit. As an entrepreneur looking at where Peter and I started 20 years ago, we had to look at it from a personal and family perspective. We couldn’t keep all of our eggs in one basket. And so with that exit, we needed to secure our own financial security for our family. If everything else fails now, at least you have something saved on the side. So that’s really the reason why we took on a new PE fund. The majority of what we sold, we reinvested back into the company because we believe that we have a very bright future to come.
SN: How has having a Private Equity partner changed your business?
EF: At the end of the day, it’s all marketing. We don’t do much paid marketing in terms of paid social media or Google ads. Our marketing plan is based around word of mouth. So, we over-invest in storytelling instead. We had a great year in 2018. We landed on around $97 million in revenue and we had a profit line of roughly 9%. This year, we plan on growing about 50-55%, but keeping the profit line flat. We are also investing a lot in our organization because we’ve been falling short for the past three years. We’ve had a great team, but this year we’re looking to double down on the team. We are also investing a lot of time, effort and money toward localization. So, we’re not opening in Venice to take over the world, we’re opening in Venice to take over Venice. By doing that, our goal is have our brand cascade down to Santa Monica, up to West Hollywood, and eventually the entire state of California. Eventually the rest of the US and the rest of the world. We can’t win the world in one sweep, we do it city by city.
SN: Is the capital also going toward your global expansion?
EF: Oh, yeah. We have a clear ambition, we wanna have 12-15 stores. Just enough store for us to be able to travel around in a year and see them.
PJ: We have a humble global takeover plan.
EF: And it’s gonna be the global key cities, it’s gonna be where all the people are. Like three, four really important cities in the United States. Asia is probably our next most exciting chapter but we need to understand how to address those cities the best way.
Peter Jansson and Erik Fagerlind in the 1990s.
Peter Jansson and Erik Fagerlind at the SNS LA shop
We like to say that we’re a 20-year-old startup because it still feels like we’re just getting started.
Erik on on the SNS business.
SN: What else has the additional capital allowed you guys to do?
PJ: It comes back to security for us and our family. We could actually buy an apartment, buy a car or as simple as getting a regular paycheck monthly. That was stuff that we didn’t have. Our staff that got that, but Erik and I, we could never be sure. We might have a lot of shoes, but sometimes we didn’t have the fund to pay the bills.
EF: We’ve always been keen to do great retail, wanted to open internationally and wanted to invest and expand in the digital space. We wanted to have our own brand where we can be creative on. We’ve been doing two out of three fairly well, now we can focus and do all three well.
SN: When you were going to New York City to buy shoes to bring back to Stockholm to sell, did you guys imagine being able to build a global brand that you guys have today?
EF: No way, no that was never really the plan. We’re product people, we always loved shoes and found a way to work in that environment, and then leveled up and leveled up and leveled up. But we never thought, “let’s open up around the globe and take over.” That was never in our head. It is fun to actually be able to sit on a much bigger platform and to live out our dream. It’s really self-fulfilling and I’m really proud of what we’ve done.
PJ: I know there’s a picture of me opening our store in Stockholm in 1999 where I’m wearing a pair of black and white Cortez with a Nike Korea T-shirt. Now I’m wearing almost the same thing 20 years later. We’re still loving it and we’re still product geeks. We like to say that we’re a 20-year-old startup because it still feels like we’re just getting started. Even though we’ve been doing this for almost two decades. We’re gonna have fun. This year’s gonna be a lot of fun.
Sneakersnstuff Los Angeles
1011 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA
Monday – Saturday: 10AM – 7PM
Sunday: 10AM – 6PM