Swedes buy less stuff
Forget buying shoes, electronics and new clothes if you're a Swede. Swedes are more interested in restaurant visits and traveling. And these changes in habits will mean tougher times for the retail business. Sales of shoes and clothes have gone down, furniture stores are also suffering, as are retailers of electronics and suppliers of building materials. However, sports and food is where Swedes put their money. Jonas Amberg, advisor at the analysis and strategy firm United Minds, believes it is the financial crisis that is affecting Swedes’ attitudes toward consumption.

“People used to be short on money,” he says. “Now they have money to shop with, but they are shopping in a different way. Consumers have realized that there’s more to buy than stuff. They are more likely to spend their money on a good dinner or a trip.”
This analysis is supported by Svensk Handel’s trend report for 2012, which states that an increasing part of consumption consists of services. In 1970, 47 percent of the total Swedish consumption went into retail. In 2011, that number had fallen to 33 percent. Meanwhile, the restaurant business has an increased turnover. Last year for the first time ever, it hit 100 billion SEK (over $15 billion), which is a bit of a milestone if one is to believe the industry trade organization Visita. The Swedish consumer puts his money on what he wants to experience, and as more and more Swedes change their buying habits, and online purchasing increases, the retailers will face more challenges. Amberg states that future retail businesses might have to think about not only selling products but services as well.

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“It’s all about being flexible. Besides selling food, perhaps you can also offer a cooking class. The person selling shoes, might also want to sell running lessons. It’s important not to get stuck with products only.”
A business that is trying to do that is Indiska—a company that sells fashion and interior products with inspiration from India. The owners of Indiska have been establishing themselves in the restaurant business. “We wanted to add experiences to our concept,” says Indiska’s CEO Sofie Gunolf. “These are two different companies, but it is still a way to add experiences in flavors. I am sure the consumer will demand more of the traditional retailers in the future, and many of the retailers are fumbling a bit right now. For us, the restaurant part in the vicinity to some of our stores, has become a natural part.”