A self-confessed expert in play, Lappset’s mission is to bring the joy that comes with outdoor fun to people of all ages. In 1970, Antero Ikäheimo developed an idea for a warmer, softer-looking play environment, an innovative design that allowed him to set up Lappset as a company in northern Finnish Lapland. Wanting to see children utilising wooden play equipment, rather than just the metal carousels and climbing frames of the time, Antero envisioned a new kind of play environment where children could interact with equipment independently, helping them develop greater strength and a stronger sense of balance. This bred the company’s long-standing desire to make exercise fun through the use of play equipment.
Wasting no time producing unique wooden playground products, by the 1970s Lappset was known throughout Finland and was taking orders from all over Scandinavia, the Benelux countries and even as far afield as Japan. To combat the obstacles created by long distance delivery and to satisfy the demand for efficient production, the company began developing new solutions such as modular construction. Further investment saw Lappset become the first company within its field to utilise computer-aided design (CAD) techniques in the early 1980s.
Having grown from a one-man band to an internationally recognised group, Lappset in its present form has subsidiaries in five countries and makes over 70 per cent of its annual turnover from overseas exports: “We are an organisation that is constantly looking for new possibilities, new developments and new business areas,” highlights Juha Laakkonen, chief executive officer of Lappset. “During our first 30 years in business we focused on children’s playgrounds, but in the past ten years we have taken steps to develop equipment that can be used by teenagers, adults and senior citizens. Our portfolio now covers concepts for all age ranges and we also havesome big furniture products that are supplied by our service business.”
This shift in focus to adults and senior citizens marks a dramatic new direction for Lappset and as Juha reveals, it has come as a result of increasingly aging populations: “We look at the age structure across Europe and there are more and more seniors and we believe there needs to be solutions in place that will allow them to stay physically and socially active and lead as normal a life for as long as possible. We develop our senior parks in the hope that we can help elderly people enjoy their daily lives.”
By looking deeply at the way elderly people live and studying the way their bodies, muscle structure and dexterities change, Lappset has worked alongside various universities and polytechnics to develop programmes that will most benefit these unique users. This research has given birth to the company’s ‘0-100’ product line and work is currently ongoing, installing 220 of these senior parks in and around Barcelona: “This is clearly a huge project for us and we have these parks now in Sweden, Finland, the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands. It is a step-by-step process, growing one park at a time and we definitely see it as an area of our business that will expand in the future,” Juha explains.
The next demographic Lappset wants to cater more towards is the teenage market, and it demonstrated it already has potential to succeed here when the company was award the 2010 Sports Product of the Year award in January 2011 for its Parkour Solutions. Its collection of Parkour products is developed in close co-operation with professionals involved in this hugely popular and trendy sport to guarantee safe surroundings to cater for both beginners and advanced enthusiasts.
Clearly there are challenges that Lappset face having a product range that fits a very specific purpose, something that Juha is all too aware of: “The main challenge in the public sector is that over the past 20 years there have been lots of studies and discussions into getting people to exercise more but very little funding has been provided to make it happen. We believe there is still not enough coverage in magazines and the media about the need to target future social costs and we want to see a trend where more money is invested into making people more active.”
With projects like those taking place in Barcelona, Juha has good reason to be optimistic about the future: “We are always integrating different kinds of technology into our solutions and concepts and that is how we have been able to gain a better market position. Over the next five years we will look to double the size of our company and in turn take an even larger share of potential customers, helping us to get closer to being the leading company in our industry.”
Products Design and manufacture playground equipment and park furniture