Hema is originally a Dutch discount retail chain which is nowadays owned by a British investment firm. In the first Hema store, that opened on Amsterdam's Kalverstraat in 1926, products were only sold for 10, 25 or 50 cents. It was set up by the owners of luxury department store De Bijenkorf. Its prices are still all in round figures, so €3 instead of €2.99.
Hema is Holland's best kept secret. It is how most Dutch people would like to see themselves. It is reasonable, easygoing, fair, thrifty and classless, based on rationality and clarity. The Hema prides itself on brining high standards of design to a mass public. And to a large degree it succeeds.
The product range is characterized by relatively low pricing of generic housewares, which are mostly made by and for the chain itself, often with original design. It sells everything from homeware to clothing, office supplies to sausages (rookworst). Hema's products are very popular in the Netherlands where one in five women wear one of its bras, and one in three boys pull on a pair of Hema pants.
Iconic Hema products are: customised cakes, rookworsten (hot smoked sausages), stroopwafels (syrup waffles), tompoucen (rectangular pastry, with two layers of puff pastry), ontbijtkoek (a kind of gingerbread), Dutch cheese. In 1936, the first 'warme rookworsten' were sold by the Hema branch on Nieuwendijk Street in Amsterdam. Nowadays 28,000 rookworsten are sold each day.
Gender-neutral clothing for children
For decades Hema is known for its colourful clothes, socks and underwear (blue for boys, pink for girls), but this reputation changed dramatically in 2017 when Hema - in a flurry of political correctness - decided to drop all gender identification from its products aimed at children. The chain will not describe clothing as being for boys or for girls anymore. Its new unisex clothing line for children now looks more monotonous and greyish.
The move to avoid 'gender stereotypes' has divided many of Hema's loyal customers and some have stated that they will never shop there again.
The store that's big in the Netherlands has opened new stores in other countries in recent years. All outlets in Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom and Luxembourg have a simular straightforward Hema interior style.