The HepCat Store - A Way of Life
Located in Lund’s Sankt Lars neighborhood, the HepCat Store is so much more than a shop, it’s a lifestyle. HepCat sells records, magazines, accessories, and clothes from carefully chosen brands. Customers come not only from the surrounding area, but also from all over Sweden, Denmark, and rest of Europe. The online store has customers from all over the world, including film companies in both Sweden and Hollywood.
An ordinary afternoon at HepCat Store can include a newly converted customer who comes in and spends several thousand crowns, a man in working clothes who quickly buys a longed for garment, a call from a Swedish theater who wants to have a pair of special sweaters, and an email with an order to the online store from a Hollywood production company. The store is located in a converted former ambulance garage and offers quality denim, streetwear, hats, footwear, music, and accessories. HepCat began in 1999 as a dance club offering the opportunity to swing dance in the basement of Stortorget Bar. Soon after, Heptown Records record company was founded. It turned out there was a huge interest in the lifestyle as well as the music.
“The store started as there was nothing available, so we imported music and clothes to sell in connection with events,” explains Robert Göthe who, together with Håkan Larsson, founded and owns HepCat.
HepCat had dance events in Malmö, Lund, Gothenburg, and Copenhagen and brought along a traveling store, which sold records, clothes, hats, and shoes. The online store was established soon after to distribute records and to sell clothes and gadgets. When boxes of jeans and clothing covered the office, they decided it was time to set up a physical shop. The business moved into the Sankt Lars location about fourteen years ago.
“It’s about our different interests coming together,” says Göthe. “We live it, you know, and 90% of the clothes are those that we ourselves like. If you are passionate about it and think that it is fun, then it will be something else. We have always worked so that we solve the matters that we see as lacking. For instance, we were early in having an online store, which we established already in 2002.”
The clothing is carefully curated and comes from major classic brands such as Levi’s Vintage Clothing, Filson, Lee 101, Stetson, and Pendleton. There are even garments from newer brands on the shelves, such as Japanese denim brands.
“We choose with our fingertips and we know both our brands and our customers well. You need to be prepared for new things to take 1-2 years before they break through. I think that we need to be a step ahead.”
HepCat’s customer are more often men than women. A common characteristic of HepCat customers is that they tend to be conscious of both quality and origin.
“It’s a wide mix of people, what they have in common is that they are quite interested in the range that is available in the store. An elderly couple from Berlin comes here to shop every year and families come here for a weekend getaway.”
International customers also shop via the online store.
“We send packages all over the world – like Brazil, Russia, Australia, Iceland, the US, and others. Swedish theaters and film productions sometimes buy classic clothes and we have delivered to several companies in Hollywood. Additionally, various designers often buy unusual things, which are not available anywhere else.”
In 2018, Robert Göthe and the HepCat Store received the Lund Merchant of the Year Award from the Handelsföreningen i Lund (Lund Business Association).
“It made waves. We received a lot of attention locally, but also internationally. It was a bit surprising, but for our international contacts it was something extra that marked us as being both unique and stable.”
The fact that the HepCat Store is very well liked can be seen through more than hundred reviews on Google. The nice and knowledgeable staff is often mentioned.
According to Dan Andersson who works at the store, “Many come in on the weekends just to get a cup of coffee and to be able to talk with like-minded people. That we offer a cup of coffee does a lot and it is has become our signature. When a new customer is offered a coffee, we immediately get a smile – it’s disarming and it immediately creates a more intimate atmosphere. There’s a community feeling here and you know that you can come in without being forced to buy anything. We have been a bit of an excursion destination this summer. During the summer many people came with cars and motorcycles.”
HepCat Store also works with events. Every year HepCat Day is celebrated with music on a stage, food from food trucks, craftspeople, and representatives from brands who demonstrate how to take care of their products, among other things. Record Store Day is another big event and there are events when brands come to the store to present their products.
“For us, it’s not just about clothes, instead we work with a lifestyle,” says Göthe. “I believe that this is the future – that the business must make itself interesting and give an experience to the customer. It can be an event, happening, or function. People want something extra when they go to a store.”
Text: Caroline Wendt
Translation: Finlay McGregor
Photo: Caroline Wendt