Alko was given its monopoly status exactly 75 years ago, in 1932. It has a strong role in the Finnish society and has had divided opinions for decades. Those in favour of the monopoly think that the controlled distribution reduces social problems, while others view that alcoholic beverages should be available elsewhere, too. This made it challenging for the designers to create a concept that would serve all the different customer groups, and at the same time appear new and fresh with- out becoming too commercial.
To celebrate its anniversary Alko redesigned its identity and opened a flagship store in Helsinki. Located on a prime spot next to the Parliament build- ing and the Museum of Contemporary Art, the store was to become a show- case of Alko’s expertise in service and selection of alcoholic drinks.
The brief for the design was to make a modern Scandinavian interior that would be functional, modern and stylish and have something unique in the design. Special attention in the concept was to be the service. The Flagship itself is contemporary, creating a sense of confidence, calmness and security. It carries over 3 000 labels on two floors, and the service is highlighted through dedicated service areas and special wine consultation for party organisers.
The space also has a classroom for wine tasting and teaching, which is a part of Alko’s offering.
The project had also some unusual challenges. The building was bombed by the Russians during the Second World War and part of the beams had been damaged and repaired later with concrete, which made it impossible to open up the suspended ceiling. Also because of the tight alcohol legislation in Finland, designers had plenty of restrictions. ”You can’t, for example, have hard liquor in view from the shop window, and we had to think how to hide it”, tells Aleksi Hautamäki.
“The store has met all the expectations as far as brand, business and social responsibility is concerned. The value of average purchase has increased, which means that special selection products are in demand. With the help of the flagship store, Alko shows its customers to be a specialty shop which is able to serve all the customer segments”, says Kyösti Lehto, the Manager of Alko’s Technical Services.
Photos: Pierre Björk