Norwegian shoppers spent a record NOK 14 billion last year during day trips over the border, mostly to Sweden. New figures from state statistic bureau SSB indicate that Norwegians are attracted by lower prices and wider selection in Sweden like never before.
“All told, there’s been an increase in Swedish shopping, especially in Töcksfors,” Christina Lyle of SSB told newspaper Dagsavisen after the numbers were released this week. She was referring to the Swedish town just over the border from Ørje in southeastern Norway, where Norwegian real estate developer Olav Thon has built a large shopping center.
Lyle said that the more traditional border-area shopping centers in Strömstad and Charlottenburg recorded slightly lower sales figures in 2014. SSB’s numbers for Strömstad, about a two-hour drive south of Oslo on the E6 highway, include sales from the Svinesund and Nordby shopping centers that are located off the first exit over the border into Sweden.
Overall increase despite weaker currency
SSB, which bases its figures on interviews with around 2,000 people nationwide, valued the cross-border shopping at an estimated NOK 14 billion (USD 1,8 billion). That was up by NOK 600 million, or 4 percent over the figure for 2013.
The increase comes despite the weakening of the Norwegian krone which has reduced the exchange rate advantage of shopping in Sweden. Prices remain so much lower, though, that Norwegians still drive to Sweden to stock up on items like beer, wine, tobacco, pharmacy products and general groceries. Many of the exact same products, from shampoo to cranberry juice, are half-price at border grocery stores in Sweden.
“It varies, but I’d say I shop there (in Sweden) around five times a year,” Tore Eilert Arnesen, age 73, told Dagsavisen, which conducted a round of “man on the street” interviews to gauge Oslo residents’ tendency to head over the border. “It’s a nice little excursion, and you often find things there that we can’t find here (in Norway). We visit Systembolaget (Sweden’s state-run wine and liquor stores) and the pharmacy.” Both are known for charging much lower prices, not least because of Sweden’s lower taxes on alcoholic beverages.
“I probably shop in Sweden three to four times a month,” said 28-year-old Trond Vedal. “It’s much cheaper there than in Norway, especially for cigarettes and meat.” Several others questioned cited much wider selection at Sweden’s larger grocery stores. Berit Aastebøl, age 70, told Dagsavisen that she also likes “the Swedish service.”
Göran Lundgren, operating chief at the Maximat grocery stores in Svinesund and Nordby, said that revenues were “stable” last year. “We have said that sales had peaked every year for the past 15 years, but revenues just rise and rise,” said Tom-Erik Bakke, manager of the store at Svinesund. “I don’t see any limits any more.”