Frank Varner opened his first store on Thorvald Meyersgate in Grünerløkka, Oslo, in 1962. The store was named “Frank Varner” and became a huge success. Three years later, yet another store opened in Oslo and another in Trondheim. In 1967, the name Dressmann was launched in connection with a new store opening on Skippergata in Oslo. The rest is history. Dressmann stores subsequently opened at a record pace all over the country.
Acquisitions and development
During the ensuing years Frank Varner sought further growth. At the beginning of the 1980s, the takeover of the stock exchange listed company Jonas Øglænd AS commenced. This was a conglomerate group whose business activities included a bicycle factory, a work-clothing manufacturer, an insurance agency, property development and Norway’s largest textile retail chain: the family concept Cubus.
In 1989, Varner-Gruppen acquired an owner’s share of more than 90 percent in Jonas Øglænd AS, which thereby became a subsidiary of the Group. The companies that did not naturally fit in with the Varner-Gruppen’s activities were gradually sold off.
In 1985, the first Carlings store opened on Storgata. The goal was to be the largest Levi’s distributor in Oslo. The jeans concept became a success and while Carlings opened increasingly more stores in Norwegian cities throughout the 1980s, Dressmann was in the process of becoming one of the largest retailers in the country.
Dressmann brought in substantial revenues through efficient operations, cost control and in particular, a high sales volume.
New chains and concepts
In 1991, the company Bik Bok was purchased. Three years later, in 1994, the retail chain Vivikes was made a part of the Group.'The Varner-Group were now represented in the low-price market for men, the volume market for the family, and with a jeans concept for boys, a fashion concept for girls and elegant clothing for women.
In 1995, Petter and Marius Varner took over the management of the company and the development of the Group continued in their hands. In 1996, they acquired the Swedish clothing chain Hagenfeldt and established the hypermarket concept Wearhouse to acquire a stronger hold on the volume market. In 2001, the group entered a new market through the acquisition of Urban – a lifestyle store with roots in the skateboard and snowboard scene.
In 2006, the chains WOW and Volt were established. Volt focuses on boys and men between 19-35 years of age, who want clothing that represents both fashion and lifestyle, while the WOW concept offers girls 8-15 years of age everything they desire in the way of clothing and accessories. In 2007, the time was ripe for further expansion, this time through the acquistion of the Swedish retailer Solo. Solo supplies Swedish men with high-quality brand jeans and other clothing and now has 10 stores in Sweden.
Along with the continual establishment of new chains and stores, the Varner-Group has become increasingly international. In 2010, the group was represented in 9 countries. The largest markets outside of Norway are Sweden and Finland.