This country of only 5,5 million inhabitants brings international retail to the Baltic region.
What have you done in Finland?
We helped Finnish cooperative retailers change into modern retail machines. The Finnish retail used to be governed by 5 co-operatives, All closely linked to different political movements, with well over 90% of the main retail markets. That landscape has changed into modern retail now. We help to move the development along for a number of the players there. We worked for Nordea, the bankers as well.
Do you speak the language?
No. It’s extremely difficult to grasp this language. But due to the excellent education system in Finland that is never a problem. Everybody speaks English.In the offices, and in the shops. That is why we never had the urgency to learn Finnish.
How far along the trend of retail-development is Finland?
Finland has been a consolidated retail market for decades already. In the past 20 years they made the switch from being co-operative driven to modern, listed companies. A number of the old corporatists fell along the way. The high income and higher education in Finland has stimulated a top-notch retail infrastructure in all sectors, such as Stockmann, the department stores, K-Group with Kesko, the food retailers, K-Rauta, the do-it-yourself giants of that same group and Nordea, the bankers.
What’s the special challenge for international retailers in Finland?
The diversified conglomerates don’t leave much room for newcomers. As usual in any isolated country with a small number of inhabitants, of these conglomerates play in many sectors. They run supermarkets, cell farming equipment, and import cars. We have found the same in countries like Israel and the United Arab Emirate’s. Unless you want to play in a niche, the established companies don’t leave much space for new entrants.