History of Hedengren
The origins of the company: 1918–1928
On 6 June 1918, the cousins Jarl and Walter Hedengren held the constitutive meeting of a new limited company and decided to open an electrical equipment shop at Antinkatu 15 under the name Aktiebolaget J. Hedengren & C:o Osakeyhtiö. The bold business idea was “perfect service in the electrical sector”. The first business premises still exist (building on the corner of Lönnrotinkatu and Fredrikinkatu).
Hedengren’s first premises consisted of a 52 m² set of rooms and one year after its establishment, it employed seven people: the founders, a shop assistant and four installers.
The initial troubles proved fatal for the Hedengren cousins: on 20 March 1920, the ownership of the young electrical equipment shop was claimed by Einar Johansson, who had formerly been employed in the insurance industry. The new owner and the first Managing Director of the new Hedengren retained the name of the company, which had already become reputed.
Einar Johansson boldly started advertising in daily newspapers, thus clarifying the company’s business idea. There was little room for customer service, but it was well-organised to include an ample selection of products.
In early 1922, the Finnish Electromechanical Repair Shop (Suomen Sähkömekaaninen Korjauspaja), the company where Einar Johansson had centralised all the repair work brought to the shop by his customers, was transferred under Hedengren’s ownership and the owner of the repair shop, Birger Lundell, became a minority shareholder in the company.
“Come to our shop today at 7 pm. You can listen to radio broadcasts from Germany.” This was the title of an announcement published in the autumn of 1924, referring already to the new shop premises at Erottaja 2 (plot of the Bensow building). Hedengren had started assembling the hit products of the era – radios – and the “HEDE radio device” went down in history as the first Finnish radio brand! The size of the premises at Erottaja was 230 m² and when 700 m² of additional space was gained in the courtyard building in 1928, the need for space was satisfied for a while.
In 1926, the company employed as many as 37 people, 22 of whom were installers. New challenges brought on by, among other things, increasing motoring were met by signing import agreements, some of which lasted for more than seven decades! Einar Johansson’s first own car (in 1930) was a 1926 model Ford Touring.
Depression and war: 1928–1948
In 1928, there was a turn in the history of Hedengren as an electrical equipment shop. The shop was closed and the company focused on importing and operating as a wholesaler. By that time, Hedengren had engaged in all the latest sales promotion tools of the period: in addition to advertising, the company participated in fairs and organised days for product demonstrations on a regular basis. A commendation and certificate of honour had been received in a competition for the lighting of shop windows.
The early 1930s were a period of depression, but a herald of better years rose over Helsinki: the construction of Hotel Torni was underway. It became the first fully electrified building in Finland; no wood or even gas was used for anything. Hedengren had conquered a new branch of business: the company became a leading electrical contractor – and when Hotel Torni opened its doors on 19 March 1931, its first major work was visible everywhere in the city.
On Flower Day 13 May 1936, the Ministry of Trade and Industry issued an official confirmation for the new company AB Elektrosignal-Sähkömerkki Oy (ESM). It was accepted by Managing Director Einar Johansson and Carl-Gustav von Schantz, who was starting as Technical Director of the company to be known as ESMI.
Early 1938 saw the completion of the “Car Palace” (Autopalatsi, current Tennispalatsi) where Hedengren moved in 1940, ultimately gaining premises totalling 1,600 m². The electrical signal company (ESMI) operated on the same property in premises of 900 m².
During the war years, almost one third of the personnel were in military service with Hedengren paying everyone a so-called reservist’s salary. Time shaped the production: things made included blowers of wood-gas generators, relays, starting motors, etc.
Decades of reconstruction: 1948–1978
Managing Director Einar Johansson was appointed as Commercial Counsellor on 15 October 1948.
During the time in Tennispalatsi at Fredrikinkatu 65, Hedengren significantly increased its representations. The security group, which is so significant today, originated in the mid-1950s. The development of the company’s own products was also continued. For example, the manufacture of the Hedoy engine heaters began in 1951.
With regard to representations in domestic appliances, vacuum cleaners (Electrolux) had been imported since 1945, for example. In 1952, a separate “household appliance department” was established with premises acquired from the Espilä building of the Association of Students of Economics.
In 1972, the vacuum cleaner brand sold through Hedengren’s retailers became VOLTA, which is also a product the Electrolux factory. The name of the vacuum cleaners sold through direct sales remained Electrolux. Direct sales started in 1960.
In 1960, Hedengren moved back to its area of origin, to the so-called Nordqvist building at Lönnrotinkatu 18. There was now 6,000 m² of space. In connection with the move, the company’s name was registered in its current form OY HEDENGREN AB.
Einar Johansson died on 31 October 1961 at the age of 69. His son Bror Johansson, M.Sc. (Tech.), who had been coached by his father about leading the company, took the helm the next day.
“Building our own office building is a key part of Oy Hedengren Ab’s plans for the near future.” This was reported by the Finnish News Agency in 1968 when the company celebrated its 50th anniversary. The subsidiary ESMI had purchased an old factory property from Vulcan Oy located on “Vulcan Hill” at Lauttasaarentie 50 as far back as in 1963. The joint commercial building of Hedengren and ESMI was completed in December 1969. (Since the plot was zoned as a small-scale industrial area, the structure of the office building had to conform to it.)
Boom period: 1978–1988
In 1978, JVC joined the brands imported by Hedengren and, with the video boom, its sales took off in an “uncontrollable” manner. As a result, a new department group was established for home electronics in 1983. The company now had five department groups: electrical and professional electronics, domestic appliances, home electronics, vehicle maintenance and industrial technology as well as battery, repair shop and service.
Managing Director Bror Johansson was appointed as Commercial Counsellor on 8 July 1983.
On 1 January 1987, Björn “Nalle” Lönnberg, who had served as Director of Finance, took over as Managing Director and “BJ”, or Bror Johansson, retired while also becoming the full-time Chairman of the Board of Directors.
A corporate acquisition was completed in May 1987, resulting in the entire business of Oy Feldt Ab, known for its leading branded products in the lighting sector, being transferred under the ownership of Hedengren. The transaction gave rise to a unit known as Hedengren Lighting, which, in collaboration with designers from various fields, creates impressive results for various interior and exterior lighting solutions in architecture, business and cultural construction and private housing.
Strong growth: 1988–1993
The 1980s as a whole were a period of strong growth. In 1988, at the time of Hedengren’s 70th anniversary, the occasion was celebrated at Dipoli where employees were invited with their spouses. There were more than 600 people in attendance watching the showy spectacle presenting the company’s history, listening to the address of the newly appointed Managing Director as well as dining, dancing and getting to know each other.
Oy Hedengren Data Ab, a subsidiary specialising in microcomputers, was established at the end of August 1990. In addition to microcomputers, the unit’s main products included their peripherals and monitors.
During the recession in 1991–1994, Hedengren fought hard – and stayed afloat. There were no years showing a deficit.
By an agreement signed on 10 December 1991, Hedengren took over ESMI’s stake in the Lauttasaari property.
At the beginning of January 1993, the direct sales unit was incorporated and became a new subsidiary, Oy Hedi Ab.
In a corporate acquisition completed at the turn of the year 1993–94, the communications company SLO Viestintä was transferred under the ownership of Hedengren and merged with our professional video section to form a new subsidiary, Oy HedCom Ab. HedCom is currently the leading importer and general contractor of professional video, professional audio and lighting technology designed for stages and TV studios.
However, the company did not celebrate its 75th anniversary in 1993 because – in the words of Bror Johansson – “one should not celebrate while the nation suffers under the pressures of a recession”. The festivities he had promised were then held at a more appropriate time, on 27 September 1995. All Hedengren employees and their spouses were once again invited to celebrate, this time at the National Opera to enjoy “The Bat”, an operetta by Strauss, and a post-performance dinner.
In 1993, the subsidiary AS Hedengren Eesti was established in Tallinn to promote exports to the Baltic countries.
In 1993, Hedengren established a sales office in St. Petersburg, which was formed into the subsidiary AO HedTech in 1996 to handle exports to Russia.
The origins of the branches: 1993–1998
In early 1995, Hedengren sold its stake in Oy Esmi Ab.
In April 1996, the brand of the vacuum cleaner sold through direct sales became LUX. This is the name it is sold under worldwide, in over 35 countries.
In March 1997, the development of Hedengren’s quality system met the ISO 9002 standard. Following an inspection, Fimko Ltd granted the company an official certificate.
In April 1997, the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (TUKES) made a decision to grant Hedengren the electrical installations certification right under EU law. The decision was the first certification right granted to a Finnish electricity contractor under the new safety regulation.
In 1997, Hedengren became the full owner of the IT company Tositieto Oy – Realdata Ab. The company had been a co-owner since 1977, first with Hufvudstadsbladet and Tilgmann Oy and later as a second owner with Hbl.
Our logistics centre of the Kauklahti warehouse built in four stages was expanded to its (for now) final, “fourth” dimensions in December 1997.
At the turn of the year 1997–98, Hedengren focused more clearly on electronics and electrical engineering as a result of branch rationalisation. The vehicle maintenance and industrial technology branch was closed and the marketing of tools was transferred to the “electrical side”. At the beginning of 1998, the company had three equally strong branches: electrical engineering and industrial technology, professional electronics and installation as well as home technology.
To the new millennium: 1998–2008
On 1 March 1999, a change of generation was carried out in the owner family. Commercial Counsellor Bror Johansson handed over the chairmanship of the Board of Directors to the third-generation representative Berndt Johansson, M.Sc. (Marketing), who took over the role full-time.
In the same year, Oy Hedengren Ab became the parent company responsible for the Group’s joint operations. Director of Finance Jörg Robertz, M.Sc. (Econ.), was appointed its Managing Director as long-standing Managing Director Björn Lönnberg retired. The branches were formed into the subsidiaries Oy Hedtec Ab, Oy Hedpro Ab and Oy Hedoy Ab.
The start of the new millennium was overshadowed by global economic uncertainty and economic growth in Europe was slow. Despite this, Hedengren was able to improve its result and self-sufficiency.
Large-scale project deliveries, increased demand for home technology and developing the company’s own operations boosted turnover to growth again.
In 2005, the security business expanded to emergency light systems (Oy Neptolux Ab) and web-based commerce in safety device components (Oy Neptosec Ab).
In 2006, a separate office was established in Stockholm to promote the ever-growing security business.
In the spring of 2007, the group streamlined its structure by grouping its business into four branches: home technology, building technology, security technology as well as AV and broadcast technology.
In 2008, Hedengren employees spent the company’s 90th anniversary working hard, committed to building a successful 100-year-old Hedengren. The company’s current strong branches expand their offerings and deepen their customer relationships domestically and internationally.
Moving forward with determination, 2009–2018
In 2009, a financial crisis spread around the world. However, at Hedengren, determined measures worked in a difficult market situation. In addition to more than 400 suppliers, new principal products were launched on the market and in-house product development continued.
Even though the financial crisis was still having an impact in 2010, Hedengren’s persevering work was worth it and every branch of the company made a profit. The company’s Board of Directors decided to start a major renovation and modernisation of the Lauttasaari premises.
Highlights of 2011 included a supplier award granted to Hedtec by the long-standing Swedish principal Frico, a revamp of the Security online shop and a landmark in the direct sales history of Hedengren Direct when the limit of 550,000 vacuum cleaners sold in Finland was exceeded.
Business continued to grow in 2012. A corporate acquisition was announced at the end of the year, after which Hedengren also had a subsidiary in Norway in addition to Sweden and Estonia.
In 2013, the company invested in streamlining the service experience, including the launch of a new website and the introduction of electronic invoicing. The renovation of the Lauttasaari office building was completed.
The year 2014 saw the launch of an ERP system reform with the aim of replacing several old systems and increasing the efficiency of operations.
In 2015, Henrik Eklund, M.Sc. (Eng.), Lars Husberg, M.Sc. (Business Management), and Ralf Wiberg, M.Sc. (Tech.), were invited to join Hedengren’s Board of Directors. Continuing members included Berndt Johansson as Chairman, architect Kenneth Lundell and Ralf Sohlström, M.Sc. (El. Eng.). Marek Hintze was appointed Managing Director of Oy Hedengren Ab as of 1 April 2015.
One of the highlights of 2016 was the opening of Hedengren School, or the facilities of Lauttasaari Primary School, on the Hedengren property. Subsidiaries Oy Hedengren Security Ab, Oy Hedtec Ab and Oy Hedengren Direct Ab continued as branches.
Prince William visited the Hedengren School in November 2017.
Cooperation between business operations will be intensified. Hedengren is celebrating its 100-year history together with its owners, employees and customers.