Norwegians invest in border trade
October 29, 2012
As increasing numbers of Norwegians head over the border to do their grocery shopping in Sweden, where prices are lower and selection is greater, fellow Norwegian real estate developers aim to profit on the practice. They’re investing in another new shopping center, this one in Strömstad, convinced that border trade will just continue to grow.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported Monday that Norwegian investor Torstein Tvenge and his two grown children have owned a strategic parcel of land in Strömstad, a short drive south of the border at Svinesund, for five years. Now they’re joining forces with residential property developer Lars Nilsen, who owns the Block Watne homebuilding firm in Norway, and the construction firm Bundegruppen to develop a large new shopping center on the site.
Magnus Tvenge told DN that the market in Strömstad is “huge, and just grows and grows.” He said he and his family have planned their “Gallerian Strömstad” project “for many years” and that they “have great faith in this shopping center, otherwise we wouldn’t have launched it.”
Reaction to high prices at home
Norwegians already account for around 80 percent of the enormous retailing revenues on the Swedish side of the border in and around Strömstad, where another Norwegian real estate tycoon, Olav Thon, has long been active. Thon controls shopping centers at Nordby in Sweden and in towns over the eastern border to Sweden.
New figures reported by newspaper Aftenposten estimate that Norwegians spent NOK 11.5 billion (USD 1.9 billion) shopping in Sweden last year and the amount continues to grow. High and rising prices in Norway and often poor selection are now prompting an estimated two out of 10 Norwegians to shop in Sweden at least once a month, according to a survey conducted by research firm InFact Norge for the Swedish grocery store chain Eurocash.
Around 1,600 residents of Oslo, Østfold and Akershus counties (near the border to Sweden) were questioned about their shopping habits and fully 50 percent said they went to Sweden at least once a year. Residents of the southern cities of Fredrikstad, Moss and Sarpsborg now often shop in Sweden once a week.
Hoarding cheese already
“Many of those we meet in the stores comment that it just keeps getting more and more expensive in Norway, and they save a lot by coming to us,” Henrik Almqvist, marketing chief for Eurocash, told Aftenposten.
He also said his stores are already seeing big increases in the sale of cheeses that are soon set to be hit by much higher import tariffs in Norway, after the farmer-friendly Center Party pushed through more policies to protect Norwegian agriculture from foreign competition.
Sales of Dutch Gouda and English Cheddar cheese alone are up 25 percent in the past three weeks at Eurocash stores, Almqvist said, since the tariffs likely will either triple prices or remove the cheeses from the market in Norway. Norwegians thus appear to already be hoarding them, even though Almqvist promised to continue offering the popular imported cheeses at lower prices.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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