1884
Organization

Infrastructure

The parish of Åhls gets a railway connection, creating the necessary infrastructure for entrepreneurs in an already energetic part of the country.

1885
Organization

Postal address Insjön

The parish gets a post office next to the train station. The postal address is set as Insjön and the village name, Ålbyn, slowly disappears. As the local mail order business Åhlen & Holm grows, a small tow centre emerges around the train station. When the railway to Leksand and Rättvik opens in 1915, the station is moved to the village of Övre Heden, but Insjön remains the postal name. Ålbyn is abandoned and the municipality expands around the new station instead.

1895
Clas Ohlson

Clas Ohlson is born

On 14 September 1895, Clas Ohlson is born in the village of Skog. Clas is the third child to mother Marits Britta Andersdotter  and father Olle Andersson of Långbers (but always referred to as “Långbergs Olle Andersson”). As is customary at this time, the child Clas forms his lastname by adding “-son” to his father’s first name.

1902

On route from Stockholm to Insjön. Clas gets a lift...

Motive-ID: On route from Stockholm to Insjön. Clas gets a lift home with J P Åhlen and family.

Image caption: On route from Stockholm to Insjön. Clas gets a lift home with J P Åhlen and family.

Clas Ohlson

Clas Ohlson gets a job

At age seven Clas Ohlson gets his first job. He is hired as an errand boy at Åhlén & Holm. His father, Långbergs Olle Andersson, works as a purchaser at the company.  After the company moves to Stockholm, Clas sometimes gets a lift home at the weekend with the Åhlen family.

1914

Motive-ID: cyklar

Clas Ohlson

Clas Ohlson goes into business

Clas Ohlson’s brother Arvid tragically dies during an accident in the military. Clas Ohlson takes over his brother’s bicycle repair shop. He names the company Spax kammare.

1918

1968 firar Elsa och Clas Ohlson 50 år som gifta.

Motive-ID: Guldbröllop för Elsa och Clas Ohlson

Image caption: 1968 firar Elsa och Clas Ohlson 50 år som gifta.

Clas Ohlson

Wedding bells

At age 22, Clas marries Elsa Springfeldt, four years his junior. The following year, in 1919, their first child, Mary, is born. A son, Thore, is born in 1920.

1918

Clas Ohlson fnular på idéer i sitt första kontor.

Motive-ID: ClasOhlson_ungCO_1923_Mitt_forsta_kontor Tysklinds fast

Image caption: Clas Ohlson fnular på idéer i sitt första kontor.

Organization

Clas Ohlson & Co.

Clas Ohlson & Co is founded on 27 June. The “& Co” is for Clas’s half-brother Emil Pettersson. The business is run from a basement in the village of Holen. The first catalogue, which contains only drawings, is printed and ads for the new venture are placed in the magazine Triumf.

1920
Organization

To Insjön

Clas Ohlson & Co moves to central Insjön. The office, a 25-square-metre timbered cottage, doubles as a bike shop and mail order firm. (The cottage still exists: it stands right outside Clas Ohlson’s main office in Insjön and is now the company museum.)

1921

Motive-ID: Personalfoto

Organization

First co-workers and a new office

The company hires its first two employees. To house the growing organisation and simplify package handling, the company moves to a more strategic location next to the train station in Insjön. Two years later, the office gets a telephone.

1922

Motive-ID: Skärmavbild 2018-01-11 kl. 09.16.02

Products and stores

First products in the catalogue

Until now, the catalogue has contained books and pamphlets. Now the first products are offered, including a few light bulbs, cameras and batteries. The camera Modärn, with fake leather, costs 26 kronor.

1925

Kontoret vid Insjöns järnvägsstation.

Motive-ID: Scan0320

Image caption: Kontoret vid Insjöns järnvägsstation.

Organization

A new office – again

Next to the rail road, the company erects a new building on land that it acquired in 1924. This will be the site for the head office until 1972. Clas and his family turn the attic into their home.  In the building, they also open a store for shopping on-site and not just via mail order. This year, for the first time, the catalogue carries more products than blueprints and books.

1929
Organization

Eight church steeples high

A year after the company turned 10, the 16th catalogue arrives. It reaches not just Sweden, but also Finland, Estonia, Norway and Denmark. If all printed copies that year had been stacked on top of each other, they would have reached 350 meters (which someone equals to eight church steeples high). The 17th catalogue has a print run of 110,000 copies.

1930

Motive-ID: Scan002 kopia

Clas Ohlson

The company villa

The company grows so rapidly that it has to use all the floors in the company head office. Clas has to move his family out of the attic where they’ve been living. Instead, he builds a new house on the same plot of land, which becomes the company’s private villa.

1938

Motive-ID: Skärmavbild 2018-01-18 kl. 14.45.17

Organization

Film for the masses

The same year that the company celebrates 30 years, Clas opens up a cinema in the village. He names it Sangbiografen and it will show quality movies to Insjön people until 1979. Above the cinema are apartments where employees often stayed or lived. (The house is no longer owned by Clas Ohlson but commuting co-workers can sleep there. For many years, the company used the building for lectures and conferences.)

1944
Clas Ohlson

Ohlsson becomes Ohlson

Until now Clas has spelled his last name as Ohlsson, with two s.  But in 1944, Clas tweaked how he spelled his name – and the company’s! – and dropped an s. Ohlsson is now a thing of the past and it’s been Ohlson ever since.

1948
Organization

30 year celebrations – in Lapland

To celebrate its 30th anniversary the company invites all co-workers on a trip to the far north of Sweden. The trip starts on 22 June, so it covers that year’s midsummer weekend. For that reason, co-workers are encouraged to bring their own packed lunches on the train  as you can’t know if the restaurant car will run out of food, given the holiday travellers. The trip goes through Borlänge, Falun, Gävle and onwards to Narvik in Norway and then back to Abisko in Sweden.

1953
Products and stores

European travelers

At the end of May, Clas takes the entire company on a trip through Denmark, Germany, Austria, Italy, Lichtenstein and Switzerland. This year also marks the start of not working Saturdays during the summer period, a practice that will remain for a little over 10 years.

1958
Organization

The company celebrates 40 years

Clas Ohlson turns 40. The catalogue is printed in 200,000 copies but all are used long before October when the next version is due. Three years later, circulation has grown by 50,000 copies and it contains 7,000 articles from 600 different suppliers.

1962

Motive-ID: IMG_2934

Organization

40-hour workweek

At the start of 1962, working hours change for the company’s co-workers. After 3 February working full-time means 40 hours a week (down from 46 hours). This year’s catalogue is the 50th since the company started, given all the years with two or more catalogues.

1964

Motive-ID: 1960

Organization

Sweden and Germany tops

In an interview, Clas Ohlson explains that the company buys its 7,000 products primarily from Swedish suppliers. In second place is Germany, followed by Japan.

1966
Products and stores

Opening a new store

An extension of the main office and store is built this year. The new store re-opens on 15 June 1966.

1967

Motive-ID: IMG_2932

Organization

Good times

Turnover for the year reaches 9 million kronor. On midsummer’s eve, the value of orders placed is 24,297 kronor. The 35 employees pack about 585 packages per day and the value per package is about 56.08 kronor. Close to 150,000 packages are sent this year.

1967
Clas Ohlson

Clas hurts his hand

On 8 April 1967, 72-year-old Clas twists his ankle and falls to the ground. In his hand, he is holding a glass of lemonade. The fall breaks the glass and a shard lodges in Clas’s hand. The injury will affect his hand for the rest of his life. (The injury is noted in Clas Ohlson’s bank ledgers.)

1968

Motive-ID: IMG_2935

People

50-year celebrations and travels

The company is now 50 years old and for the first time turnover exceeds 10 million kronor, spread over 150,600 packages. During the jubilee year, Clas buys 2,500 state lottery bonds (with guaranteed wins) and the winnings are split by seniority between the 60 co-workers. The staff is also treated to a trip to Copenhagen for a full week in May. On the way home, they stop to dine at Älvkarlebys Turisthotell. On 26 May, the company’s birthday is celebrated with a dinner at the Grand Hotel in Falun. During the meal, five co-workers – Ernst Andersson, Holger Kristoffersson, Arvid Helsing, Gustav Back and Olle Östberg – are presented with silver chandeliers to mark working with the company for 25 years.

1969

Motive-ID: IMG_2933

Organization

Fewer packages, increased turnover

Although the company sends 2,2 per cent fewer packages than the previous year, its turnover increases by 18 per cent. The catalogue is printed in 300,000 copies.

1970

Motive-ID: IMG_2938

People

Tore Ohlson’s responsibility grows

At the end of the 1960s, Clas starts giving more operative responsibility to his son Tore.  This continues during the 1970s and when Clas dies in 1979, Tore becomes the company’s second CEO.

1970
Organization

Almost at 100

The value per package is measured at 99.97 kronor. On average, 600 packages are shipped each day.

1972
People

Björn Haid goes to China

Björn Haid, who is Mary Haid’s son and Clas’s grand-son, has taken an operative role in the company. In the early 1970s, Björn travels to China, where he meets supplier Peter Lee who becomes one of the company’s most important contacts in Asia. During his three-week trip Björn visits several fairs and returns home with many new and exciting products. The first product that is bought, the Military Look Radio, becomes a big-seller.

1972

Motive-ID: IMG_2943

Products and stores

A new head office by the highway

A new head office, measuring 5,000 square meter and combining both offices and a store, opens next to the main road that passes Injön, “riksväg 70”, connecting it to the the main cities of the region. The architect Benny Agnas has created the house, with an imposing front entrance wall that measures 38 metres in length.

1973
Products and stores

Insjön grows as a destination

A year after it opened, turnover at the new store has grown by over 40 per cent. An average of 670 packages is sent every day from Insjön to destinations around the country.

1975
Organization

Hello computer

The company gets its first computer. Ann-Marie Ström, Clas’s former secretary, is named head of computing. Clas has been relatively uninterested in the novelty – and, in fact, a bit scared – but now he’s glued to the screen, amazed at how easy it is to get an overview of stock numbers and other information. The computer is top-of-the-line for its time – and has an amazingly long life span. It’s decommissioned 14 years later on 13 March 1989.

1976
Products and stores

Color catalogue!

The 1976-77 catalogue is the first one with all the pictures in colour.

1977
Organization

200,000 packages

For the first time, the company ships more than 200,000 catalogues in a year.  The store in Insjön welcomes 171,923 customers and total turnover, combining the mail order business and sales at the Insjön store, exceeds 50 million kronor.

1978
Organization

60-year celebrations

The company turns 60. Every day, it ships about 800 packages. The average package is valued at about 250 kronor.

1979

Clas Ohlson, 1970-tal. (Foto: Clas Ohlsons företagsarkiv.)

Motive-ID: Clas Ohlson, 1970-tal

Image caption: Clas Ohlson, 1970-tal. (Foto: Clas Ohlsons företagsarkiv.)

Clas Ohlson

Clas Ohlson dies

On 26 February 1979, founder and CEO Clas Ohlson dies. His funeral is held on 3 March. His son Thore takes over as CEO.

1983
People

Håkan Thylén is new CEO

Håkan Thylén, a native of Insjön but with a long career at Ikea, is recruited as the new CEO for Clas Ohlson.

1985
Organization

100 million in turnover

Turnover exceeds 100 million kronor for the first time. The company opens a subsidiary in Norway as it starts mail order sales there.

1986
Products and stores

A new store in Insjön

The company expands and the Insjön store moves to today’s location, a bit up the road but still alongside the highway. Clas Ohlson presents a new graphical profile. Two years later, the company celebrates its 70th birthday.

1989
Products and stores

A store in Stockholm

A pivotal year and the start of Clas Ohlson’s store expansion. On 30 June, the company opens in the Gallerian shopping mall in Stockholm. A new computer system is implemented to handle logistics.

1990
Clas Ohlson

Merchant of the century

In a reader survey by the industry organization Swedish Trade, company founder Clas Ohlson gets fifth spot for “Merchant of the Century”.

1990
Organization

One million catalogues

For the first time, the print run of the annual catalogue exceeds one million copies.

1990
Organization

First board

Clas Ohlson appoints its first board. Future CEO Gert Karnberger is named chairman of the board.

1991
Organization

The catalogue changes

The catalogue changes its design when the company switches to a printer in Finland. One million copies of the catalogue, or ten fully loaded trucks, with 850 new items, arrive. The layout for the catalogue 1990-1991 is for the first time done completely on a computer.

1991
Products and stores

First store in Norway

The store in Oslo opens at Torggata 2-6.

1993

Motive-ID: IMG_2942

Organization

Speed train to Gothenburg

The company celebrates 75 years by renting an X2000 train and taking all co-workers to Gothenburg. At one of the stops Clas Ohlson’s daughter Mary Haid boards the train, to everyone’s surprise.

1994
Products and stores

500,000 visitors to Insjön

The store in Insjön receives over 500,000 visitors this year.

1995
Organization

New central distribution center

A new central distribution center in Insjön opens. The warehouse is 11,000 square meters large with a ceiling height of 9 meters.

1996
People

Gert Karnberger new CEO

Chairman Gert Karnberger becomes the CEO, succeeding Håkan Thylén.

1996
Organization

Internet-premiere

This year, the company gets its own home page on the world wide web.

1998
Organization

Clas Ohlson celebrates 80

The company turns 80 and celebrates with a company-wide party at the outdoor concert venue Dalhalla. At this point internet commerce makes up about 10 percent of the company’s total sales. At the central distribution centre, an additional 18,000-square-metre is under construction. Mary Haid, Clas Ohlson’s daughter, breaks the ceremonial first ground.

1999
Clas Ohlson

Clas Ohlson gets listed

Clas Ohlson lists on the Stockholm stock exchange on 5 October. Trade begins at 106 kronor and peaks at 146 kronor that day. Nine thousand people invest in Clas Ohlson shares.

2000
Organization

Taller than the Eiffel Tower

This year’s catalogue is one centimetre thick with a circulation of 1.8 million. If all the catalogues were put in a pile it would be 18 kilometres tall, as high as 56 Eiffel Towers.  The Butik 2000 concept is launched in the stores. The webssite clasohlson.se is named among “Sweden’s 33 best sites”.

2001
Organization

The environment!

The handbook We Care About the Environment, which was released just before the millennium is joined by a corporate-wide environmental policy.

2002
Products and stores

Hello Finland!

The company opens its 29th store, in Helsinki, Finland. Clas Ohlson is now active in three countries. (By 2018, there’ll be closer to 40 stores in Finland.)

2004
Organization

Fifth strongest brand

In a brand survey by Termos, Clas Ohlson is ranked Sweden’s fifth-strongest brand. Anders Moberg is named the new chairman of the board. Over 1,200 people come to the annual general meeting and are treated to coffee and a Clas Ohlson-branded cake.

2006
Organization

New heights

Company turnover is over 4 billion SEK. This year’s catalogue is 420 pages, contains 12,000 articles and 3.5 million copies are printed.

2007
People

Klas Balkow new CEO

Klas Balkow takes over from Gert Karnberger as CEO.

2008
Products and stores

Company museum opens

On 18 June, as the company celebrates its 90th year. It also opens a new company museum in Insjön and its first store in the United Kingdom. Altogether, the stores are visited by more than 50 million people.

2011
Products and stores

150 stores

The new store in Lahtis, Finland, becomes the company’s 150th.

2012
People

Hiring record

A new e-commerce platform launches and the company is bigger than ever, with almost 4,300 co-workers.

2013
Organization

Here’s Club Clas!

In March the loyalty program Club Clas launches. Over a million members join the club in its first year.

2014
Organization

Franchise in Dubai

The company’s first franchise-venture opens in Dubai. Kenneth Bengtsson, formerly CEO of ICA, is elected new chairman of the board.

2015
Products and stores

200 stores

The new store in Karlstad becomes the company’s 200th. In 2016, Clas Ohlson is named Sweden’s strongest brand  and receives the Evimetrix Swedish Brand Award. The company launches its sustainability concept, From Here to Sustainability.

2016
Organization

Club Clas reaches 2 million

The same year that the company opens its first store in Germany in Hamburg, the loyalty programme Club Clas reaches 2 million members. The company now has close to 5,000 co-workers in 6 countries.

2017
Organization

Clas Ohlson starts cooperating with Mathem.se

Clas Ohlson begins cooperating with MatHem.se, one of Sweden’s leading e-commerce sites and Sweden’s largest online food shop.

2017
People

Lotta Lyrå, new CEO

In 2017, Clas Ohlson gets its first female CEO. Lotta Lyrå joins from Ikea and succeeds Klas Balkow.