Sweden flag Sweden: Buying and Selling

The distribution network in Sweden

Evolution of the Sector
The Swedish market-place has traditionally been dominated by domestic brands and by a small number of large chains, especially in the high-volume clothing, furniture and food retail segments. It has therefore remained relatively untapped by international retailers. Two examples of this are Swedish H&M, the second largest apparel retailer in the world, and IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer. However, in recent years many inter- national brands have entered the Swedish retail market. According to Retail Guide Sweden 2020, the retail turnover (e-commerce and physical trade) reached SEK 786 billion in 2018. The growth rate in retail sales was 2.7%, and it is estimated that one third of total household expenditure is spent on retail. E-commerce is showing strong growth, the turnover reached SEK 88 billion in 2019. Internet retailing emerged as the most important trend within non-grocery retailing, but it was still a minor part of overall grocery retailing. The major players are ICA and Coop.

Climate change is one of the single greatest issues engaging Swedish consumers, and they are increasingly expecting brands to commit actively to sustainable development. There has been a booming demand for organic and other premium alternatives. As a consequence, all grocery players increased their assortments of organic and healthy private label ranges in order to facilitate the rising demand for these premium products.

The competitive landscape between grocery retailers in Sweden is highly consolidated, with three main players, the first of them - ICA Sverige - with more than 50% of market share.
Supermarkets are by far the largest grocery channel in value terms. There is a well-established and long-standing grocery retail channel in Sweden. Supermarkets are typically located in city centres or suburbs, while hypermarkets and discounters are typically found outside city centres. Hypermarkets exhibited slower performance than supermarkets and are more dedicated to families. They are located outside the cities, sometimes in a shopping centre where consumers can also make non grocery purchases. The smaller grocery retail formats, such as convenience stores, forecourt retailers and discounters, displayed varying performances: Forecourt retailers continued to struggle due to the comparatively high prices charged; Convenience stores did better thanks to Swedish consumers' increasingly hectic lifestyles. In addition, convenience stores are often located in the centre of cities and villages, making them a good option for those who shop for groceries on a daily basis. Discounters compete mainly with supermarkets and hypermarkets, as increasingly price-sensitive consumers led to a surge in low-priced alternatives.
Market share

Swedish distribution of consumer goods is very structured even though there is still a large number of specialised retailers. Food distribution, for example, is concentrated around three groups:

  • Ica Sveridge AB (Ahold group) ) with about 52% market share in 2019. The Swedish grocery retail group ICA operated almost 1.3 thousand stores in the country, with an operating profit of approximately 3.7 billion Swedish kronor.
  • Coop Sveridge AB (KF) with 18.8% market share in 2019.
  • Axfood ABwith 18.5% market share; it specialises in 'soft discounts', i.e. very large discount stores.
  • Bergendalhs group with 5.3% market share.
  • Lidl with 5.1% market share
Retail Sector Organisations
Svensk Handel (Swedish Trade Federation)
Association of Trade Partners Sweden

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Latest Update: June 2022

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