Swedish IKEA and H&M are global retail benchmarks.
What have you done in Sweden?
Many things. We started out for the two car manufacturers in this Nordic country. Both Saab and Volvo hired us to reinvent their global retail networks. That let to work at Scania. While we were there we go into contact with the main Swedish retailers in our other sectors. KF, Axfood in the supermarket sector. Åhlens, the department stores. Pressbyrån, the convenience store chain. Nordea, the bank and Posten, the national postal company. We have worked in Scandinavian retail regularly since the early 1980-ies.
Do you speak the language?
We can read and understand retail-Swedish, but because almost all Swedes are so good at English we were never really forced to become fluent in Swedish. Even if we try to speak Swedish with staff on the shop floor, they will switch to English the moment they hear you’re not a native.
How far along the trend of retail-development is Sweden?
Very far. Think of IKEA and H&M and you know what we mean. These companies have changed the retail landscape across the world. the past decades has changed the local supermarket sector a lot as well. This was dominated by the consumer cooperation KF, but these former rulers are now bypassed by ICA and Axfood (Willy’s, Hemköp) that don’t have to tackle the inherent challenges all of these decisive leadership that are troubling cooperative organisations almost everywhere .
What’s the special challenge for international retailers in Sweden?
It’s a huge country at the northern edge of Europe, with only 9,5 million inhabitants. Distances between the three urban concentrations Stockholm, Göteborg, Malmö are large. International retailers tend to opt for larger countries to spend their scarce management talent on.
What company would you still like to work for again in this country?
We would like to work again for Coop. their former number one position has been overtaken by ICA and Axfood. I’m sure we can find the road back for them.
Can you give an example of a project in Sweden that you are proud of?
Two interesting cases. We prevented Volvo, the car manufacturers from shedding their Swedish heritage. In a worldwide project we found out the assets of their Swedishness, and translated that in pragmatic marketing tools. Another memorable project was for Pressbyrån, the the very Swedish kiosk chain which used to be the hard of the Swedish society. We turned them into modern convenience stores to great success