Generations of Commerce
Schou begins with Johannes Schou
Having an eye for things – and for making them grow – has always been a part of Schou’s DNA. It runs in a straight line from the first Schou; Johannes Schou, who with a head full of ideas decided to open a grocery store in Vamdrup, near Kolding. WWI is approaching. The year is 1912.
The grocery store is only the beginning for Johannes. The store is quickly expanded with a large drugstore, where he sells pharmaceuticals and chemicals. When the war breaks out, he is fast to establish a factory which produces surrogate foods. Yes, it is not real cocoa, real coffee or real spices, but the Danes long for the taste of something that they cannot get any longer.
For Johannes, the key to growth is being aware of what people need the most. After the war when the Danes can throw the surrogate foods into the bin again, he turns his attention to another business area on the rise: Quick-drying varnish for cleaning and opens Schou Farve- og Lakfabrik.
Fate wants Johannes to get glaucoma. He becomes blind during the 1920’s but he does not lose sight of his business at any point. With the help of Kirstine Schou, and their nine children, he continues to develop new business areas and drives the ’Vamdrupian’ dynasty onwards.
This also includes investments in the Christian organisation, Indre Mission and helping people in need. For Johannes is not only a gifted merchant, he is also a man that believes strongly in God. Everything he does, he does with the belief that common interest always precedes personal gain. Among many things he transforms Hotel Vamdrup to a Christian hotel and creates a health resort for women with tuberculosis.
Johannes’ talent for trade, his willpower and eye for things leaves a huge mark on Vamdrup until his death in 1939. From being a small rural town Vamdrup grows into a city of commerce and when Vamdrup was on the receiving end of a new IC3 train in 1991, there was only one name for it: Johannes Schou.
A new Schou takes over: Andreas Schou
After the death of Johannes Schou in 1939, Kirstine Schou continues the business with support from her to oldest sons, Knud and Laurids. However, there is little doubt that the second-youngest son, Andreas Schou, also has inherited an undeniable talent for trade and business.
But Andreas is a young man with many talents and thrives very well in the army as an officer. So, it takes some persuasion to bring him home to Vamdrup. But in 1951 he becomes head of business together with Laurids. This collaboration lasts for about ten years, then Andreas will like to run things himself.
But it is not always easy taking over a business, where every part of the family is involved. In the end all agree to split things up. Laurids, for instance, takes charge of the big paint and lacquer factory. But Andreas does not mind. He knows that he has a gift for trade and that he just needs a place where he can unfold it.
So, he is keen to move on, when Kirk Christiansen from LEGO asks him if he wants to be part of the board of the wholesale hardware store, Nielsen og Skou Petersen in Kolding. He barely manages to settle in before he thinks that it is probably better to run it himself. Andreas buys the store and lays the foundation for the Schou we know today.
With the same talent for commerce and trade as his father, Andreas is quick to expand the business. He comes up with new ideas just as he come up with new products – garden furniture, tools and bikes. Soon there is a need for lager premises. Born and bred in Vamdrup there is only one place to go for Andreas, so in 1966 Andreas moves the company to his hometown.
Like father, like son: Jørgen Schou
By virtue of Andreas Schous’ drive and trading skills the name Schou becomes an inseparable part of Vamdrup and the entire region throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s. In 1990, though, he is ready to pass the baton on to the youngest son of the family, Jørgen Schou, who has been an apprentice of his father ever since he could walk.
Jørgen is taken along to the Far East and Eastern Europe with his father and later he educates himself in USA and Canada. When he gets the keys to company, he has already worked his way up and is Head of Sales.
With the same drive as his father – and marked by a global outlook from his many travels – Jørgen not only embraces the existing legacy, he also raises the stakes one or two inches. He expands the range of products, the business portfolio and sets new standards for how to run a wholesale. It soon becomes obvious that Schou Hardware is too narrow a description and that Schou, ironically enough, is more adequate and suiting.
Today, Schou is the largest non-food wholesale company and offers everything one can imagine within kitchenware, interior design, gardening, tools and machinery. Schou also offers a 3000 m2 big showroom in Kolding, Denmark and sales offices in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany and China.
Jørgen Schou and his wife, Birgitte have three sons, all of whom take part in the family business. With them and their children both fourth and fifth generations are ready to carry on the unique Schou-DNA.