There's Far More to Fiskars Than Those Famous Orange Scissors

  • CEO aims to transform company to global premium goods maker
  • Fiskars has divested financial holdings to fund acquisitions

Fiskars Oyj Chief Executive Officer Kari Kauniskangas is on the lookout for purchases that will help him transform the Finnish company best known for its orange-handled scissors into a global player in premium consumer products for the home and garden.

“Acquisitions are part of our company strategy, our growth strategy," Kauniskangas, 54, said in an interview on Monday at the company’s Helsinki headquarters. “Obviously we continue to follow what’s happening out there.”

Kari Kauniskangas

Photographer: Pentti Hokkanen/Fiskars Oyj

Since he joined as CEO eight years ago, Fiskars has shifted from a holding company with stakes in companies primarily for financial reasons to a stable of 20 high-end brands ranging from Nordic housewares producers Iittala and Royal Copenhagen to outdoor gear with Gerber knives in the U.S. The CEO last year bought a group that includes the English porcelain maker Wedgwood and the Irish crystal manufacturer Waterford.

“It’s the areas where you can truly add value -- either through better functionality or through better design," Kauniskangas, wearing his trademark Fiskars orange tie and scissors emblem on his lapel, said of his acquisition strategy. “We are building a global branded consumer goods company."

Fiskars is targeting an increase in earnings this year as a result of the most recent purchases completed in July. First-quarter sales jumped 29 percent to 296 million euros ($331 million), while operating profit climbed 51 percent to 23.7 million euros.

Iittala Oyj glass factory.

Photographer: Ville Mannikko/Bloomberg

To help pay for the purchases, the CEO has sold divisions, such as a boats unit, that don’t fit his vision. Fiskars, which has a market value of 1.36 billion euros, has also sold down its stake in ship-engine builder Waertsilae Oyj but remains the second-largest owner with 5.5 percent, which is worth about 400 million euros.

“I am not going to comment on the future but if you look back that’s basically how we funded our acquisitions,” the CEO said when asked if he’ll sell the remaining Waertsilae holding. “I am quite happy at the moment.”

Kauniskangas is also expanding the company’s sales network and in particular sees opportunities for expansion in Asia, where Fiskars gets about 10 percent of its revenue. He added 27 stories in the region last year. Along with an increased retail presence, he also aims to boost sales to hotels and airlines for use in the company’s food service operations.

At the same time, the CEO is overhauling Fiskars’s manufacturing operations -- such as closing a ceramics factory this year in high-labor-cost Finland -- to reduce spending and integrating back office operations across the brands. What he doesn’t intend to do is mix the brands in terms of their product offerings and retail outlets.

Iittala’s glass blowing workshop.

Photographer: Ville Mannikko/Bloomberg

“We are very sensitive to the core of the brand,” he said. “We want to make sure when the consumer walks into the store that they get immediately what the brand is about and what the experience is that we are trying to communicate.”

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