Three reasons to visit Finland in 2019

Date : 26 March 2019

Harriet Cohen

Senior Retail Analyst

We recently visited Helsinki on a research trip and were invited by the country’s three leading retailers; S Group, Kesko and Lidl to see some of their latest concepts and thinking in-store. We bring you the highlights here.

1. S Group's hotly anticipated flagship Herkku Food Market store

Address: Stockmann Department Store (Basement), Aleksanterinkatu 52, 00100 Helsinki, Finland

Market leader S Group gained approval to acquire department store chain Stockmann’s Finnish food business in late 2017. It has since delivered an extensive renovation programme, with the first store opening in Helsinki in October 2018.

This flagship store is owned and operated by the local HOK-Elanto cooperative and features in our insight presentation “Top 16 stores you must visit in 2019”. It incorporates learnings “from Pielavesei to Piedmont, from San Francisco to Sörnäinen” and in its first days of opening, the store saw 60% more visitors than the previous week.

It’s a must-see store for those considering best in class, premium and urban food halls. Those looking for innovation in counters and dine-in options should also make time to visit this store.

What did we love about it?

  • Attention to detail in fixtures, fittings and lighting. This was especially the case in fresh produce, which set the tone for the rest of the store
  • The 85m of counters include an appealing eat-in or takeaway coffee and patisserie bar
  • The 25-seat bistro at the centre store provided an enticing dine-in option, with dishes made using products available to purchase in-store
  • The “Chefs in season” zone creates a premium point of difference while the changing nature of products should help to keep the range interesting

Source: IGD Research

2. Kesko wows with K-Citymarket Järvenpää store

Address: Helsingintie 41, 04410 Järvenpää, Finland

Kesko operates around 80 hypermarkets, while the grocery sales of the format account for around 20% of the retailer’s total grocery sales. This store was refurbished in 2017, while more innovations will be introduced in the coming months.

Store owner Markku Hautala is a third generation Kesko retail owner. He has worked in retail for over 20 years and has run this store since 2007. Hautala prioritises tracking the latest trends and developments in grocery retail and can often be found travelling to see innovations first hand.

He has conducted 80 international study trips in the last few years alone and has spent hundreds of hours studying best practice on IGD’s Retail Analysis platform.

What did we love about it?

  • It’s rare to meet a store owner or store manager so passionate and dedicated about making the store the best that it can be. The time Hautala spends researching the latest concepts can be clearly felt, with the store taking best practice seen elsewhere and elevating this to new heights
  • The store is probably Europe’s biggest sushi seller, selling over 3,000 kilograms of sushi weekly. This is even more impressive given Finland isn’t a populous country
  • The quality of the food we ate at the in-store Sesonki restaurant is unlikely to be matched by many, if any retailers in the world
  • The store’s pizza bar tested twelve different pizza doughs as it worked to perfect the recipe, bringing in one of Finland’s leading pizza chefs to develop its hot pizza counter concept

Source: IGD Research, Kesko

IGD Retail Analysis subscribers should look out for the store visit report K-Citymarket Järvenpää coming soon to our website.

3. Lidl’s upgrade plan: investing in fresh, food-to-go and social consciousness

Address: Ristipellontie 9, 00390 Helsinki, Finland. Note: some of the pictures below were taken in stores in Helsinki city centre too

As seen elsewhere in Europe, Lidl’s new stores in Finland are being built in line with its latest thinking. Existing stores are undergoing a refurbishment programme too. This began in October 2017, while during 2018 around 40 stores were renewed.

Commenting on a recent store refurbishment, Nicholas Pennanen, Operations Director, said “We study our customers' shop, for example, in what order the shop is typically rolled and which are the most popular shelves. We combined this data with customers' wishes. That's how we got the planned order that best serves the customer, but also improves the ergonomics and efficiency of our knowledgeable personnel”.

What did we love about it?

  • The focus on fresh produce. This has seen the category brought to the front of refurbished stores, while ranges have increased significantly. There’s also a clear emphasis on Finnish sourcing
  • Upgraded in-store bakeries, which are crucial for freshness perceptions. These used to have doors but are now more open, while ranges now include gluten-free options. Products can be baked as often as three times daily or more, depending on demand
  • Increased emphasis on food-to-go in a select number of stores. This has seen new listings with restaurants and food-to-go operators including Fuku and Mr Fruit. Hot food-to-go has also been trialled at in-store bakeries
  • The in-store recycling scheme which incentivises shoppers. The recycling of certain products corresponds to a cash value. Users can donate this to charity or gamble for the chance to win €100,000. For those that gamble but don’t win, the money still goes to charity. At the time of our visit, the fixture was popular with users.

Source: IGD Research

To keep up to date with the latest news from leading global grocery retailers including S Group, Kesko and Lidl, sign up for IGD's free Retail Analysis international newsletter.

We can keep you up to date with retail and food-to-go format developments across Europe and North America. Our retail safaris will help you understand these innovations and what they mean for your customers, categories and markets.

We’ve selected 16 innovative store concepts to visit in 2019 that showcase several of the latest trends shaping format development globally. These include the growing role of technology, underpinning both ecommerce and customer engagement, and the creation of immersive in-store experiences.

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