Indie Corner: Moomin Shop Camden

Stores that cater to fans of cult brands are no doubt popular – you only have to look at the successes of the Disney, Lego and M&M stores in London as shining examples. But what about smaller retailers that stock products of a somewhat niche brand? Elias Jahshan chats to the man behind one of the UK’s only dedicated Moomin stores to find out.

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Moomin

Magnus Englund refutes the idea that Moomin is “niche” – and he has compelling evidence to do so.

To start with, the brand has a global retail value of around €700 million. And although creator Tove Jansson wrote and illustrated the last Moomin book in 1977, they still sell 20 million copies a year – making her one of the best-selling Finnish writers of all time.

“There are dozens of Moomin shops and cafés in Japan, about half a dozen in Finland, and some 700 licensees around the world making Moomin products, so it’s not that niche,” Englund tells Retail Gazette.

“There are also Moomin theme parks – one in Finland and another planned in Japan.

“My wife.. is a massive Moomin fan and almost insisted that we set up a Moomin shop so she could go and work in it.”

“Camden also has many overseas tourists who know and love Moomin – we get people from Mexico, Israel, Kuwait, Nepal and they all say they grew up watching or reading about the Moomins.”

It’s hard not to notice the recently-opened Moomin Shop Camden when one is strolling through the Grade II-listed Stable Market in north London. Licensed by Moomin Characters Ltd, which looks after the brand on behalf of Jansson’s estate, the independent retailer is operated by Englund. It also works with over 50 official manufacturers and licensees and stocks more 3000 authentic Moomin products.

But how exactly did it get there? As Englund recalls, it took a lot of convincing – a big part of which came from his wife.

“I’ve known the rights holders of Moomin for a long time, and they asked me to open a Moomin shop almost a decade ago, which I declined,” he tells Retail Gazette.

“But since then I have seen how Moomin has grown and grown, so when they asked again, I said yes this time around.

“But my wife also played a big role. She’s a massive Moomin fan and almost insisted that we set up a Moomin shop so she could go and work in it.”

He added that his longtime acquaintance with Jansson’s niece and creative director of Moomin Characters, Sophia, also helped.

“We share an interest in good product design and I respect her for using Moomin for good causes, so it was a natural fit to work together,” he explains.

“She gave us free hands when it came to the shop fit and assortment selection.”

Although Englund himself has been running his own retail businesses for almost 30 years, he is also credited with being one of the pioneers of bringing the Scandi design craze to the UK in the late 1990s.

“I’ve been running my own retail companies since 1991, when I started a fashion shop in Stockholm, that still exists but under different owners,” he tells Retail Gazette.

“I then ran Skandium for 17 years, and I’ve also worked for other retailers, such as Paul Smith, which was a very useful experience.

“I still do interior design work occasionally, most recently the common parts of Clare Hall College in Cambridge, and I have also written half a dozen books about architecture and design.”

While Englund acknowledged that the power of online is not something retailers can ignore, he still believes “nothing beats a beautifully presented physical shop”.

“We are very active on social media, and every products in-store is also available online, and we sell and ship globally,” he adds.

“Moomin Characters, the rights holders, are also very active on social media and help us get more known.”

Nonetheless, Englund did not mince words when it came explaining why he loves the brand.

“That’s exactly why I like the Moomins – it’s not all cute and sweet.”

“I grew up in Sweden, and we had a black and white Moomin series made in 1969 with actors in full costumes, and a few years later a colour one, also with actors,” he recalls.

“These were pretty dark and weird, and that’s exactly why I like the Moomins – it’s not all cute and sweet.”

There have been various TV adaptations of Moomin in different countries throughout the decades. Moomin made its debut in the UK when Jansson’s books were first published here in the 1950s. This prompted the London Evening News – now known as the Evening Standard – to ask her to create a strip cartoon. This subsequently ran in English language newspapers for two decades.

It first came to British TV screens with a Polish-made stop motion series that aired in the 1980s, followed by the Japanese cartoon series of the 1990s. This spring, a new British/Finnish 3D animation series is coming to Sky and features an all-star voiceover cast of Kate Winslet, Matt Lucas, Rosamund Pike and Jennifer Saunders.

Englund says the new TV series, alongside a brand new Moomin theme park in Japan slated to open this year, may provide a good boost for Moomin Shop Camden and differentiate it from bigger cult brands.

“We’re not primarily a toy or kids shop, we’re a cult shop for adult retro fans of Moomin, and the Scandinavian background of Moomin also means we have a lot of high-quality Scandinavian design products,” he says.

“So, I don’t see Disney or such as competition, we’re more like the Tintin shop in that sense.”

Are you an independent retailer and would like to be profiled next? Get in touch: elias@retailgazette.com

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