Exercise and sports have always been close to the heart of Hannele and Risto Niklas-Salminen. Coincidence and a little bit of luck were involved when the young couple took responsibility for a sports store in the middle of the recession of the 1990s. Thirty years later, they can still be found in the Koskikeskus shopping centre familiarly known as “Koskari” in Tampere.

Hannele, Finnish champion in basketball, and Risto Niklas-Salminen, former football player, are known in Tampere as advocates of the athletic lifestyle. From the very beginning, the couple’s Intersport store has been located on the first floor of Koskikeskus in the centre of Tampere. They already serve their third generation of customers.

- We have been lucky to have a profession in the field of sports as well. I was store manager here, when Kesko Group somewhat surprisingly suggested to us to take the responsibility for the store. We had three days to think about our future, and we have never regretted the decision, says Risto Niklas-Salminen.

Right from the start, Hannele and Risto have invested in new concepts and the development of personnel’s competencies. First, they made the decision to expand the range to cover not only the so-called heavy sports goods, but also footwear and clothing.

- It is important to remember that when we started, it was mostly only men who visited sports shops. The selection for women was almost non-existent and the collections were mainly unisex style. We immediately had a clear target to increase the number of products and brands suitable for women. We also trained the staff to serve a variety of customers representing various age groups. We succeeded and gradually were able to get female customers to our store, explains Hannele Niklas-Salminen.

Niklas-Salminens say that in almost 28 years a great deal has happened both to them and to the shopping centre. The past year was exceptionally memorable – for many reasons. The construction of the city’s new tram system (Tampered Ratikka) as well as the Coronavirus epidemic affected also the entrepreneurs in Koskikeskus.

- Last spring, when it was told in the media to avoid shopping centres, the effect was immediate. But every cloud has a silver lining. While Finns stayed at home and worked remotely, they started to want to go out and into the nature, which gradually brought the customers back to buy leisure gear, Hannele says.

- Of course, the tram construction site has created problems in some parts of the city, but it is also great that Tampere is growing and developing. Moreover, we have other major construction projects going on here, which means we are launching the 2020s with flying colours.

Shopping centre is much more than just a place to shop

Risto Niklas-Salminen points out that Koskikeskus is not just a place of business. According to him, it also has its own strong identity.

- The shopping centre was the largest in Finland when it was opened and therefore it gained a lot of visibility. Most importantly, it has always had a good reputation. “Koskari” is also a familiar meeting place for locals, and numerous first dates have been arranged here.

- Over the years, we have carried out several store renovations and built new concepts. The most important point for us tenants is that the centre has also been continuously renewed over the years. The attraction has been maintained. There is a good selection of both well-known international brands and domestic companies as well as different sectors such as health services, Risto gives praise to the location.

Expert service is the key reason to visit a sports store

According to the Niklas-Salminens, customers have clearly become more aware of sustainability issues, and their importance has increased. Today, products purchased from sports stores are also requested to feature even more quality, multifunctionality and durability. 

Hannele and Risto Niklas-Salminen confirm that the sports good business has been experiencing one of its biggest changes in a very short time. But the stores will continue to evolve and offer great expert service.

Tampere is known primarily for ice hockey, but what other sports are popular?

- People in Tampere are now investing in active and healthy leisure time. Especially running and cycling are "in". During the last spring, the first thing that started to sell in major numbers was sports shoes, as all kinds of outdoor activities increased. At the same time there were, a little surprisingly, new favourite sports. For example, we suddenly had shortage of sup boards and padel clubs, Hannele says.

What is the best part about being an entrepreneur?

- We have a great location where we are in the middle of people flow. The four seasons and changing product ranges make this profession interesting. Our salespeople of different ages form a close team, and everyone does his or her best for both old and new customers. I am happy to come to work every morning, confirms Risto Niklas-Salminen.

On 20 April 2021, K Group published that Hannele and Risto Niklas-Salminen have been selected as “kasvattajakauppiaat” (Growth Traders) of the year. The award is a recognition of distinguished work in training staff and new merchants. The recognition is granted annually by the three industry associations of the K-Merchants Association.

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