The mark of a true businessman lies not in his products nor place of trade, but in his passion to fulfil customers' needs and in pursuit of such. For Karkkainen - one of Finland's largest privately owned shopping centres - the pursuit started with a truck, an aspiring entrepreneur and an open road. Driving through different cities selling various products, founder Juha Karkkainen grew his business from the back of his truck in 1988 to a retail and wholesale empire. Today, Karkkainen operates four department stores, a wholesale business, an e-commerce site and local magazine, KauppaSuomi, with a total annual turnover exceeding Euro150 million (HK$1.3 billion). Karkkainen takes greater pride, however, in serving customers while supporting communities such as Ylivieska, where the company's journey began. The municipality honoured the founder last year for his long-term and significant contributions to its economy. "Karkkainen has stirred activity and boosted businesses in every location we are present," says marketing director Marko Koivuneva. "We aspire to do the same in other markets as we pursue expansion." The company is slated to open two large department stores and several smaller Karkkainen Express stores in the coming years. It plans to launch 15 additional stores in Finland, driven by flourishing product lines including clothing, do-it-yourself tooling, outdoor and sports. This development is projected to complement Kakkainen's growing online store, www.karkkainen.com
, and business-to-business segment serving more than 150 wholesale clients. About 40 per cent of all products are from Asia, mostly from South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the mainland, where Karkkainen has a sourcing office and close relationship with manufacturers. The company is also set to further market its Karkkainen and KauppaSuomi brands at an exclusive expo, which Koivuneva envisions will also feature Chinese suppliers in the future. "We are thrilled to expand our pool of trusted, high-quality suppliers - with whom we aim to serve our customers better," Koivuneva says.