In May, Denmark is bringing its quirky, super-affordable home decor chain, Tiger, to the U.S. for the first time. A new 5,000-square-foot store called Flying Tiger Copenhagen (for copyright reasons) is slated to open May 16 in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood.
Danish design has a reputation for exquisite quality, but most of the Danish wares available in the U.S. come with a hefty price tag. Think of Arne Jacobsen’s Swan couch ($9,000 at Design Within Reach) or Georg Jensen’s sculptural silverware ($20,000 for a pitcher). If it’s designed in Denmark, chances are it’ll cost a pretty penny.
Tiger is like the dollar store of Danish design. A whopping 90% of the store’s products will be under $15, with many under $10 (candles are less than $5; socks are $3; wigs are $10).
But that doesn’t mean it’s all junk: 90% of the items are designed in-house in Copenhagen, which lets them keep price points low, with an eye toward making shopping for boring household staples more fun. “Our mission is to make high design accessible for everyone,” Tina Kanter, managing director of Flying Tiger Copenhagen (and daughter of former Ikea U.S. president Steen Kanter), says in a phone interview.
The company’s idea of accessible design is decidedly playful. Coffee mugs are adorned with mustaches, oven mitts have teeth. There are telescoping back-scratchers, dinosaur costumes, and Star Wars lightsaber toys for sale, as well as basic clothing staples, like T-shirts, long johns, scarves, and hats, and handmade blankets ($30). Many accessories are printed with the word “kaerlighed,” which means “big hug.” “We don’t go out looking to just sell a plate,” Kanter says. “When we design, we think about how products can inspire people to live life in a fun way. We want to help change people’s ideas about how to spend their leisure time.”
From a business standpoint, Flying Tiger Copenhagen hopes to fill a gap in the big-ticket home retailer scene in the U.S., by offering a less self-serious shopping experience and range of products than what’s currently available at places like Blu Dot and Design Within Reach, as well as Target and Muji. “We take a totally different spin on retail than most competitors,” Kanter says.
The $1 billion brand’s Flatiron flagship will have a whimsical interior design, with 15-foot-tall windows and a wall, 10 feet tall by 24 feet wide, of colorful candles. New products will be swapped in every four to six weeks. The vibe draws on the brand’s flea market-inspired origins–founder Lennart Lajboschitz used to sell overstock at flea markets and concerts in the ’80s, then opened his first Tiger store in 1995. Now, there are 429 locations in 27 European countries and Japan.
Still, New York is an expensive market–it remains to be seen whether this quirky Danish chain will survive here against better-established neighbors. “We specifically chose the location at 920 Broadway to be among brands that we admire, like ABC Carpet and Home and Design Within Reach,” Kanter says. Of all U.S. cities in which to start out, New York might be the least risky, given the city’s deep appreciation of good design.