After 226 years of operation, Steen & Strøm will follow the trend and become gender neutral. That is why they are closing down the traditional men’s and women’s departments. This is how they will succeed in a woke world.

At least this is what the head of Steen & Strøm, David Wilkinson, thinks.

If department stores are to succeed in the 21st century, they must be thought-provoking, as well as an appealing shopping destination, says Wilkinson to VG’s MinMote.

Wilkinson had a tough start in the role of boss, since he took over in early 2020 and had the pandemic land on his desk straight away. Steen & Strøm did not shut down and survived the pandemic. Then came the problems in the first five months of 2022, now Wilkinson must save the traditional company by adapting to LGBTQ ideology.

The strategy is called “shake up the old lady”, according to marketing manager Kaia Kongsli.

David was hired to change the impression of the department store. Steen & Strøm are 226 years old, so it was about time. We created a strategy to actually “shake her up”, now the other floors are up for grabs as part of the next chapter, says Kongsli and continues:

We felt that the way people shop now is not based on gender, but style.

Oslo is a pioneering city, says Wilkinson. He is probably right about this, but not everyone is equally interested in breaking the lines that separate a man from a woman. Drawing straight from Klaus Schwab’s idea of stakeholder capitalism, Wilkinson says it’s not the bottom line that motivates him.

The establishment of gender-neutral floors is less about a cynical need to increase our income, but more about the mindset. This way of acting welcomes everyone. We see that people get excited about something different.

How do you think people will react to this exact change?

I think they will be surprised at first, but then I think they will adapt quickly. Something I have learned about Norwegians is that you are very good at absorbing new ideas.

Wilkinson has always said that Steen & Strøm should be the “shop of Oslo”, says Kongsli enthusiastically.

We have had to find out what we should be and not try to be something else.

The band Underworld has a great song where they sing: “Be bold, be beautiful, be free”. That’s the kind of energy we’re trying to create here. Without sounding too poetic, that is the way of thinking we must get into the hearts and minds of Norwegians.

Mixing the terms bold and beautiful with the LGBTQ agenda is strange to say the least.

MinMote has found a person who is described as a fashion theorist, Pia Henriksen. There really are a lot of odd jobs in today’s world. She can inform us that fashion is a lot about the body, visual communication and social and cultural expectations.

Personally, I put on a clean T-shirt every day, and a shirt over that again. Preferably blue, but my wife has tricked me and bought shirts in weird colours (even a pink shirt!). What this says about my social and cultural expectations, I have no idea and I couldn’t care less. I just like wearing a shirt, even if it’s pink.

Even Henriksen has to admit that there is a certain logic in the fact that for over 200 years at Steen & Strøm there has been a distinction between women’s and men’s clothing. Because the bodies are different, or was that the time when normal people were able to answer the question What is a woman?

Now new thoughts apply. Now it is gender that has become fashionable.

Gender as fashion, if you can say that, is not only about fit, but about style and identity in a contemporary image. As communication and symptom of the era’s underlying focus on expanding the concept of gender. It’s not just about clothes, but clothes get a lot of attention around identity and gender as a social construction, because it’s so easy to communicate with, and because clothes have been so characterised by gender affiliation for so long.

Kongsli hopes that customers will love the new trend of gender-neutral clothing.

Now it’s time for the department store to get the love it needs, so that it lasts for another 200 years.

One can only wish Steen & Strøm the best of luck with the new venture.

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