April was a huge month for Stokke. First, the award-winning stroller brand unveiled the latest upgrade of the Xplory stroller and then the creators of the famous Tripp Trapp opened their first London store at Westfield, White City. At the launch, we met Stokke’s CEO Jacob Østerhaab to find out more about the brand, its past and future, and how his family life has influenced the direction of the business.
Stokke was founded in Norway in 1932, 86 years ago. Jacob hasn’t been there all that time, but in his 11 years with the company, the brand has become bigger and better than ever. “We’ve changed from being a small Norwegian furnishing company to a global player in more than 80 countries,” he explains. The launch of the iconic Tripp Trapp in 1972 catapulted the brand into the baby industry and since 2006, Stokke has solely focussed on children’s furniture and baby equipment. In recent years, Jacob has seen Stokke transform from being a business based on distributors and retailers to stores and own e-commerce business. This was made possible because of the “incredibly passionate global team,” Jacob says proudly.
As CEO, Jacob describes his life as extreme. “I like to know the business, I like to get involved. I like to know the customer perspective on the business and want to understand the constraints the suppliers have in working with us,” he says. “I’m fortunate to have a great team in place but I like to be close to the business.” When he isn’t globe-trotting for the sake of the brand, he loves to escape into nature, away from big cities and airports – preferably on a boat somewhere.
The launch was abuzz with press, influencers and members of the public, all excited that Stokke finally had its own patch in the UK’s capital. The store is sleek, spacious and simple, leaving the complexity and intricacies to the product designs themselves. Of course, everyone was talking about was the latest upgrade of the Stokke Xplory. Since its launch in 2003, the Xplory stroller has been revolutionising the pushchair world. Never one to be left behind, Stokke is at a point of perfection with the V6 model.
“We don’t launch many products but the ones we launch are thoughtful and unique.”
“Everything we’ve done is adding new benefits. We’ve really been focused on is removing pain points. Some issues have been there for 15 years that have now finally been resolved,” Jacob tells me. “For example, the footrests — now you don’t have to take them off to change the seat from a forward-facing to parent-facing position. The seat handle bar that you can open.” It also has leatherette handles. “We’re probably five years late with those!” he jokes.
A stroller update like this one can take a couple of years, depending on the concepts and resources available. “What we’re trying to do is to balance the investments into improving existing products and creating new products,” Jacob confesses that the design team are already working on designs and improvements for the next update. “Our aim is to make more significant upgrades and do it much more frequently.”
As part of the launch, Stokke customers were allowed to take the Xplory for a test-drive around the shopping centre. This was a fantastic way for new parents to really experience the brand and its products. Stokke really want us to understand the uniqueness of their products and their core concept of connection between parent and child. “We don’t launch many products but the ones we launch are thoughtful and unique,” says Jacob.
“My children are 11 and 13 – and they’re still sitting on those Tripp Trapps!”
“In the case of Xplory, it’s about the seat height, the right comfort for the child, and is ideal for parents of any height. The one thing that really sets us apart is the seat height. It’s very easy to develop a stroller with a lot of function when the seat is low. The challenge is that when you make the seat high, it causes a lot of complexity.”
Jacob has two children who have both grown up with the company, which has definitely had an impact on his journey with Stokke. When asked which product he couldn’t have lived without, he immediately says the Tripp Trapp. “It’s a product we’ve used daily over the years,” he says. “They’re 13 and 11 and they are still sitting on those Tripp Trapps. Now they’ve got the junior part as well, they’re really happy with that.”
He admits, as a parent, using some of the Stokke products haven’t been convenient enough. Even when his children have been happy using them, there have still been parts Stokke has wanted to improve for the parent. “An example of that is Xplory, the version we’re launching today,” he explains. “It has been an incredibly difficult product for people to fold. I had the same experience 11 years ago. Now we have removed the complexity of folding so it becomes easy to fold.”
Despite the excitement of the Stokke launch, it’s unlikely they’ll be a store popping up near you any time soon. “We’re not aiming to become a chain of stores in any market, but there are still many markets and key cities around the world that we don’t yet have stores in.” Instead, the brand wants to focus more on adding exciting products and ensure that the stores they have are the best they can possibly be.