Norwegian retailers don’t change as they make too much money

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The World Retail Congress usually sets the agenda of the upcoming big questions in European retail for the next year. But even if a new kind of retail is emerging, the context and trends usually reach the Scandinavian countries with one or two years delay.
Rune Jacobsen, Head of Retail at the Boston Consulting Group, moderated a seminar about transformation, but sees big differencies between retailers in Nordic countries.
”Norwegian retailers make to much money and need to be in control of their assortment before taking the next step,” he says while pointing out differencies in corporate cultures and competition.

As the Head of Retail within the Boston Consulting Group, Norwegian Rune Jacobsen has met several of the larger Nordic retailers, usually when the company needs a change.
But transformation work differs a lot between the Nordic countries.
”There are completely different efforts needed. I’d say it’s a lot easier to succed with a transformation and an implementation in Denmark – and in Finland – than it is in Sweden and Norway,” Rune Jacobsen says.
He believes it is mainly due to different company cultures – and national cultures.
”In Sweden, there are a lot of processes and a lot of consensus.”
But when it comes to changes taking place in the retail business at the moment. Norway and Finland are usually considered the last in line of the Nordics to have the same context regarding e-commerce and omnichannel as Sweden and Denmark adapted.
Sweden’s got some big players in retail, setting the agenda. Ikea and H&M are at the forefront testing new techniques and Ica is expanding its e-commerce and payment options.
In Norway, Norgesgruppen and Varner – the two giants within grocery and fashion respectively are more into traditional retail.
”In e-commerce, Norway is behind – but these two good examples of retailers are making a lot of money. Therefore they are not that eager to invest and trial new tecniques. And then there is the whole dynamic of their segment. It’s been a lot of focus on the customer so far.” says Rune Jacobsen and continues:
”Within dailies, it’s been a purchasing focused model recent years aiming to take better control of the store shelves. Before adopting new technologies, you need to be in full control of your own assortment.”
So they are not left behind?
”Not compared to their local competition.”
Elkjøp and XXL are Norwegian examples of succesful exports, where at least Elkjøp has adopted an omnichannel approach. Rune Jacobsen concludes they are culture driven and customer focused companies, like the Varner Group, but the focus is not on innovation.
”Their competition is not hard enough, but they make a lot of money.”
”But I am sure they will face a real disruptive business.”
How long can they go on like they do today?
”They will have to take the next step within 2-4 years and it will go fast. We see new models coming”, says Rune Jacobsen.

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