Peter Nygard in 50 Fastest Growing Companies

50 Fastest Growing Companies in 2009

Nygård started the label after using his life savings and borrowing $8,000 to invest in an existing clothing maker in 1969.

It was a risky yet typically entrepreneurial move for the Finnish immigrant who occupied, for a time, a converted coal shed in the southwestern Manitoba town of Deloraine upon arriving in Canada with his family in 1952.

Nygård, whose work ethic and exacting standards are legendary, has taken risks and reaped rewards ever since.

He owned the company outright after a few years, and proceeded to build a profitable enterprise that has survived and thrived during four decades in the highly competitive retail industry.

He is not out of place on the floor of his Winnipeg plant, where he knows employees by name and seeks out their feedback.

“Most people would find it quite interesting how involved I am in all aspects of the Company,” Nygård says with a chuckle.

The Hudson Bay Company has carried NYGÅRD clothing for decades – it counts on NYGÅRD’s high quality standards, efficiency and market reads as important components to the company’s strength.

The business strongly reflects his interest and expertise in computers, which has led him to create a paperless and electronically streamlined operation. The company’s slogan is, after all, Where Fashion Meets Technology.

“Our business model is being studied more and more. It produces outstanding results, prompting awards from Microsoft for our programs we have developed in-house,” Nygård says proudly.

This is well demonstrated through his exciting new partnership with U.S. department store owner, Alex Dillard.

The two have done business for years and 50% of NYGÅRD’s annual approaching $1 billion sales comes from the U.S. market.

NYGÅRD has opened 110 Fashion Worlds in 200 Dillard stores that are integrated with the host company’s operations. “It is the best strategic partnership in North America,” Nygård says. “We managed to really merge our two companies.

“We each have our own identity but we’ve taken the bureaucracy and inefficiencies out of the system.”

Nygård is also preparing to open a new flagship women’s apparel showroom in Times Square. Along with putting him at the centre of the fashion world, the high-profile store will showcase the technology that ties together his 330 stores and 1,500 employees, 12,000 worldwide.

Hanging monitors with scrolling messages stream footage from NYGÅRD fashion television network, NFN, communicate with staff and customers, and provide in-store training.

“New York will really be a visible symbol of where fashion meets technology. It really puts the face on our whole company,” says Nygård, who has been followed into the business by some of his children, including daughters Alia and Bianca, who have clothing lines named after them.

“I am a builder,” he says,“ I am an architect building a system, but above all what I build is people. “My greatest job, all the time, is the continual building of the whole staff.”