Telephone: (+358 300) 472 220
Web site: https://www.tokmanni.fi
Founded: 1989 as Okman Oy
Sales: €796.5 million ($916 million) (2017)
Stock Exchanges: Helsinki
Ticker Symbol: TOKMAN
NAICS: 452210 Department Stores
Headquartered in Mäntsälä, Finland, Tokmanni Oy is one of Finland's fastest-growing retail groups and the operator of the country's leading chain of discount department stores. As of 2018, Tokmanni operated 175 stores throughout Finland as well as an online store. Tokmanni stores range in size from 1,000 square meters to more than 5,000 square meters, with an average sales area of 2,600 square meters. Midsized stores, which are located primarily near smaller towns, represent the largest part of the group's revenues, at 57 percent, and generally feature a product assortment of 15,000 items. The company's larger stores are located in or near Finland's major cities, feature more than 25,000 items, and account for 30 percent of group sales. Its smallest stores tend to be located in city centers and in shopping malls, feature 10,000 items, and produce less than 15 percent of the company's sales. Tokmanni stores stock a wide range of goods grouped into six categories: Clothing; Groceries; Home Cleaning and Personal Care; Home, Decoration, and Garden; Leisure and Home Electronics; and Tools and Electrical Equipment. Tokmanni is a public company listed on the Nasdaq Helsinki Stock Exchange.
Tokmanni, which means “crazy man,” was founded by brothers Kyösti and Kari Kakkonen, the oldest of six children from a farming family near Joensuu, in North Karelia, Finland. Elder brother Kyösti, born in 1956, graduated with a law degree from Uppsala University before earning a master's degree in business administration. Kari Kakkonen took a different path, completing an engineering degree at a technical college in Joensuu in 1983.
The brothers already displayed an entrepreneurial bent as students, initially working on the family farm. In the late 1970s they entered the peat industry, taking out a bank loan to acquire the machinery they needed to gather this important Finnish fuel resource. The peat business flourished, and before long the brothers had become leading figures in Finland's peat industry. They soon turned their growing fortune to other business areas, generally investing in struggling companies, including a bowling alley, a bakery, and a motorcycle shop, which they then helped reorganize, before selling them off again for a profit.
Kyösti and Kari Kakkonen had been bit by the retailing bug and soon launched plans to found their own discount retail operations. For this, the brothers had to wait for the expiration of a two-year noncompete clause. Nonetheless, by November 1989 they had registered their new company, called Okman Oy, starting with capital of FIM 15,000. To provide funding for the new venture, the brothers brought in a silent partner, who took an initial 30 percent but later sold his stake back to the brothers for an impressive profit.
Through their earlier retail experience, the Kakkonen brothers had built up a strong network of business relationships with wholesalers and other suppliers. Among them was Keijo Karlsson, who operated a chain of discount stores in several Finnish regions. In September 1989 Karlsson agreed to sell them part of his operations, grouped under Savonlinna Varastovalinta Oy, including stores in the eastern Finland towns of Savonlinna, Mikkeli, Kangasniemi, and Rantasalmi, for FIM 6 million. The purchase also gave the Kakkonen brothers a small shop in the Mikkeli bus station, operating under the name Mikkelin Supersäästö Oy.
The Savonlinna store, meanwhile, became something of the flagship store of the young company and the testing ground for its developing product assortment. Kari Kakkonen, who in his youth had already taken charge of much of the purchasing for the family farm, took the lead in procuring goods for the store. The company quickly established a reputation for providing high value on a variety of items, which helped attract a growing clientele. By 1991 Okman Oy had begun to expand, adding a store in Miekkoniemi. At the time the company had 56 employees.
Finland was hard hit by the recession of that year. The recession also brought on a dramatic shakeup of the country's retail industry. Between 1991 and 1993, some 30,000 Finnish retailers were forced to declare bankruptcy. Okman Oy found itself struggling as well, after posting a loss for its first full year in business. Nonetheless, the company remained financially sound and had the backing of its bank. As such, the difficulties of its retail rivals provided new opportunities for the company.
The most significant of these came in the fall of 1991, when Okman Oy acquired Kiinteistöyhtiö Raatekankaantie 4 Tokmanni Oy, a store in Joensuu that had opened in 1988. That store included 1,500 square meters of sales space and 1,000 of warehouse space. The brothers recognized the marketing potential of the store's name, which meant “crazy man” in Finnish, particularly as a means of emphasizing Okman's deeply discounted prices. The Tokmanni name faced a legal challenge from Sweden's Stockmann department store group, which was also referred to as “Tokmanni” in certain dialects. Ultimately, the Finnish court ruled in Okman Oy's favor, noting that the word stockman meant “clerk” in Finnish, while tokmanni meant “crazy man,” leaving little likelihood of confusion in the minds of Finnish consumers.
The Tokmanni purchase gave the company not only a new brand name but also an entry into the North Karelia region, with stores in Joensuu, Lieksha, and Outokumpu. The company quickly rolled out the Tokmanni name in new markets, including Kerimäki, Kitee, and Nurmee in 1993 and Juva and Mäntyharju in 1994. It also began expanding its existing stores as it broadened its range of goods. This included the addition of the first grocery items, starting at the Joensuu store in 1993. By 1995 Okman's retail network had grown to 22 stores, generating annual sales of FIM 12.3 million. The company's payroll had also increased to 146 employees.
Also in 1999 Okman took steps to counter the rising tide of cheap imported goods from China and other Asian markets, which had allowed other retail groups, including supermarket powerhouses SOK and Kesko, to undercut the Finnish discount retailers. In 1999 Okman became a shareholder in Pick-Import Finland Oy Ltd., a company established as a partnership among other discount retailers to import goods from Asia. The partnership enabled Okman to reduce its dependence on wholesalers, lowering its own costs as well.
Okman, which had developed several other investment interests, reincorporated its retail operations under a new company, Tokmanni Oy, in 2002. Other new locations followed into the turn of the century, including in Sysmä and Liper in 2001 and Ilomantsi in 2003. At the same time, the company continued to expand the format of its stores, completing extensions on most of its locations. By 2002 the company's retail network had grown to 26 stores, and its sales neared FIM 350 million (€59 million, or approximately $50 million). Tokmanni continued to add to its network, acquiring a number of existing locations from retail rivals, including Kesko and Spar, raising its total sales to €63 million in 2003.
As Tokmanni prepared for the next stage in its growth, the Kakkonen brothers turned to the Finnish private equity group CapMan for additional financing. For this, a new holding company called Tokmanni Oy was created, with CapMan taking a 60.6 percent stake and the Kakkonen brothers retaining the minority stake. The deal preceded Tokmanni's first major acquisition, of the 35-store Vapaa Valinta (“Free Choice”) discount retail chain, from Notex-Yhtiöt Oy. Vapaa Valinta had been founded by Juha and Paula Malminen in 1974, and it operated especially in Turku, in southwestern Finland, and Tampere, in southern Finland. Because Vapaa Valinta was also a partner in Pick-Import, the acquisition increased Tokmanni's share of that business as well.
Acquisitions became the driving force behind Tokmanni's growth through the decade, as the company added several more discount retail chains to its holdings. These included Milleri, founded by husband and wife Pekka and Ritva Kouvon in Kylmäkoski in 1995, and the four-store Säästökuoppa chain in the Oulu region. Both acquisitions were completed in 2005. The following year Tokmanni made another large-scale acquisition, of Tarjousmaxi Oy (owned by Suomen RH-yhtiö Oy), which operated 23 Tarjoustalo-branded stores in southern Finland, as well as 8 Maxi-Makasiini stores and two home furnishing stores, under the Maxi-Kodintukku name in the Kainuu region.
The acquisition brought Tokmanni another major shareholder, Seppo Saastamoinen, who acquired a 24 percent stake in the company through Suomen RH-yhtiö Oy. This reduced CapMan's stake to 51 percent and the Kakkonen brothers' share to 24 percent. Saastamoinen's father had founded RH as a clothing shop in Savonlinna in the 1950s; after his death in a car accident, his children took over the store in 1967. Under their leadership, the single store grew into a major retail empire, including the Maxi-Makasiini retail brand, introduced in 1978.
By the end of 2006, Tokmanni's acquisitions had raised its total sales to €440 million. The company operated more than 100 stores and boasted a payroll of 250 employees. Tokmanni had also successfully expanded beyond eastern Finland to become a nationally operating company, with a particularly strong presence across the whole of the Gulf of Finland. In 2006 Tokmanni added a second prominent discount brand, the 12-store Robinhood chain. This was followed in 2007 by the purchase of Säästöpörssi, operator of 12 discount stores in southern Finland. Säästöpörssi (“The Savings Exchange”) had been founded in 1985 by the husband-and-wife team Timo and Tapio Halme.
In 2008 Tokmanni moved to new headquarters in Mäntsälä, where it opened the largest logistics facility in Finland at the time. That year the company also acquired full control of Pick-Import as well as the assets of TT-Future Oy, a sports clothing and equipment retailer, which had gone bankrupt.
Tokmanni entered the real estate development sector during this time, focusing on the construction of shopping centers for its own stores and for third-party retailers. The company's projects included Citycon, a 22,000-square-meter building in Tampere Hervant, completed in 2007.
By the first decade of the 21st century, Kyösti and Kari Kakkonen had built Tokmanni into one of Finland's top five retailers, with more than 120 stores operating under six brand names and total revenues of €601 million in 2009. That year Kyösti Kakkonen, the company's CEO, stepped down from that position, turning over the CEO position to Heikki Väänänen. Kakkonen remained on the company's board of directors.
Under Väänänen, Tokmanni continued adding new stores. By 2012 the company had raised its total network to 144 stores and its sales to €650 million. That year CapMan and the company's other shareholders agreed to sell Tokmanni to the private equity firm Nordic Capital for an undisclosed amount.
In 2013 Tokmanni Oy launched a brand-harmonization program, rebranding all of its stores under the Tokmanni name. This process started with the rebadging of the group's Vapaa Valinta and Maxi-Kodintukku stores in 2014. The following year Tokmanni, which had been developing a presence in the e-commerce market, rebranded its online retail platform under the Tokmanni name as well. The brand-harmonization process was completed by the end of that year. As a result, Tokmanni became Finland's largest discount retail brand, represented by nearly 170 locations throughout the country, 3,300 employees, and total sales of €755 million.
With the rebranding completed, Nordic Capital moved to cash in on its investment, listing 46 percent of Tokmanni Oy on the Nasdaq Helsinki Stock Exchange in May 2016. The highly successful initial public offering (IPO) raised €158 million for the company and gave it a total capitalization of €394 million ($447 million). Harri Sivula became the group's chairman after the public offering.
Having guided Tokmanni through its IPO, Väänänen stepped down as group CEO in 2017. The following June, Tokmanni named as his successor Mika-Rautiainen, formerly of S Group, owner of the Kesko supermarket chain. Kesko attempted to block the appointment, based on a noncompete clause in Rautiainen's S Group contract. Sivula stepped in as Tokmanni's interim CEO until the matter was resolved. Rautiainen took up the CEO position in June 2018.
In the meantime, Tokmanni had continued extending its store network in a bid to boost its revenues. In 2017 the company added 13 new stores, while relocating 2 others. These included 8 stores from the bankrupt department store chain Anttila. With a new CEO aboard, Tokmanni looked forward to refining its retail model and to continuing its expansion as Finland's discount retail leader.
M. L. Cohen
Nordic Disco AB (Sweden); Retail Leasing Oy; Retail Property Investment Oy; Taitomanni Oy.
Clothing; Groceries; Home Cleaning and Personal Care; Home, Decoration, and Garden; Leisure and Home Electronics; Tools and Electrical Equipment.
Kokkolan Halpa-Halli Oy; Osuuskauppa Arina; Osuuskauppa Hämeenmaa; Osuuskauppa Keula; Pohjois-Karjalan Osuuskauppa; Stockmann Oyj Abp; Suomen Osuuskauppojen Keskuskunta.
“Discount Retailers Swim against the Tide.” Helsinki Times, February 2, 2015.
“Finnish Retailer Tokmanni Gets Market Cap of 294 Mln Euros in IPO.” Reuters, April 28, 2016.
Nguyen, Andy. “Is There Now an Opportunity in Tokmanni Group Oyj (HEL:TOKMAN)?” Simply Wall Street, May 13, 2018.
“Nordic Capital to Purchase Discount Store Chain Tokmanni.” M&A Navigator, May 25, 2012.
“Tokmanni Group Corporation Opens Four New Stores in Store Space Released by Anttila.” Global Data Point, March 31, 2017.