“We don’t do long-term plans” – Interview with the CEO of The Danish Pipe Shop
I had the opportunity to visit The Danish Pipe Shop last month, which celebrates the 50th anniversary this year. I chatted with Nikolaj Liberoth Nielsen, son of the first owner and CEO of The Danish Pipe Shop to write an article for a Hungarian magazine. Here you can read a short version of our interview with some of the pics I took in the shop.
– Your father bought the old shop in 1969. What is your first memory about it?
– Mainly playing as a kid in the basement. I used the pipe boxes as „LEGO” and built castles – the colleagues of my father didn’t like that so much as I did…
I was born in 1970, so I practically grew up in the shop.
– You moved here in 2016 from one of the most prestigious shopping streets in Europe, the Strøget. Why did you move the shop and did that increase or decrease the income of the shop?
– We moved here for several reasons. First of all, we needed more space as we started the webshop as well. Yeah, and we had more and more time-consuming customers that we could not offer the right service and surround because the shop was small. Second,
I was not happy with the quality of the old shopping street anymore. It had become a circus for tourists, and the new shops are attracting customers looking for a good deal or food.
By the way we have not been affected by the move in terms of turnover. 2018 was the best year ever.
– How many pipes do you sell a year? Are the majority of these sold on the webshop or in here?
– We sell approximately 20–30 per day seven days a week so around 9000–10.000 pipes in a year.
These pipes are in the price range from 10 Euro to 15.000 Euro. My father was a social democrat, and he had the idea that pipe smoking is for everyone, so we sell cheaper pipes as well. The split of the sells is roughly 55% online and 45% in the shop.
– What are the most popular brands in The Danish Pipe Shop?
– Tom Eltang, Eltang Basic Pipes, Nørding, Poul Winsløw, Stanwell, Castello, Dunhill and then many of the high-grade pipe makers from Denmark are under high demand.
– One of the most famous pipe makers, Tom Eltang, bought 20 per cent of shares in the company. What influence does he have?
– That I have a partner, I can discuss ideas about the shop. Plus, he has opened many doors for us in terms of both customer base and suppliers. It is probably one of the best decisions I have ever made (besides marrying my wife :) )
– You sell products of other Danish pipe makers as well. Are these pipes more popular in Denmark or the international market?
– We have many international customers visiting the shop whose primary reason for coming to the shop are these Danish brands. In general, I would say 8 out of 10 of the Danish pipes goes abroad.
– What is your experience, are there any differences in what kind of pipe tobaccos are popular for customers coming from different nations? (So what the Danish pipe smokers, the German pipe smokers, or others are looking for when they want to buy tobacco?) What would you offer for a Hungarian pipe smoker?
– Yes, I would say there are some differences between some countries/regions. For instance, the Germans love sweet Aromatics, the Chinese English Mixtures with a lot of Latakia tobaccos etc. (I must say, the Chinese market is booming nowadays, and these tobaccos are in high demand there).
I think the Hungarian taste is a little like in Denmark. Mostly pure tobaccos, Virginia etc.
– What is your opinion about hookah or narghile? Did you ever try to sell something about this before, or is it in your plans?
– Yes, we had it in the old shop, but
I think it is attracting too young people to smoke, so we decided to stop selling these products when we moved.
The other reason for this that we sold a minimal amount from these products.
– What are your short and long-term plans for the company? Do you have plans for the 50th anniversary of the opening of the shop?
– During 2019 we will launch several limited anniversary products. We have already started to sell anniversary pipes from Nørding and Eltang brands, we created a new logo as well. And we have developed our own anniversary tobacco, which is called G Flake. Maybe we will have a party in October, but it is undecided yet.
In general, we don’t do long term plans. We are in an industry where we have a lot of attention, and we have to navigate in troubled water. New taxes on tobacco or other legislation can change the game-plan. We do our very best every day. We don’t spend time looking at our competitors. I want to spend that time on ourselves, how can we improve – can we upscale our service in any way? That’s my main focus.
– What do you think, will there be more or fewer pipe smokers in 2050? What is the future of this enjoyment?
– Well, this is an excellent question. Thirty years is a long time. If you look at how fast the cigarette market changed: a couple of decades ago almost everybody was smoking, but nowadays there are around 20–25% of smokers in the population… It is impossible to say it now, but
I think there will be fewer pipe smokers in 2050 – if any? Following up on my last answer legislation could end up ban smoking, and then we are out…