Top 5 Scandinavian retailers

Today, we introduce you to the most profitable and influential Nordic retailers

Scandinavian retailers

Top 5 Scandinavian retailers. Source:

Scandinavian countries are, by far, the most prosperous and economically developed in Europe. They also have a favourable business environment, well-educated labour force, modern infrastructure, high industrialisation levels, and low levels of systemic corruption. Nordic countries have outperformed the rest of the EU in the ongoing pandemic crisis, with a decline in GDP of 2.2% compared to 6.1% in Europe.

Scandinavian brands have inspired millions of people with their clear minimalistic designs, eco-friendly approaches, and simple elegance. Besides, Nordic businesses have always been keen on innovation and technological advancements. Therefore, Scandinavian retailers have been doing pretty well despite any closures of their bricks-and-mortar locations.


H&M is a leading global fast-fashion company with strong values and a clear business concept. According to the Markhor Ventures’ list, the Swedish brand was the third largest clothing manufacturer in the world in 2020. It operates over 5,000 stores in 74 markets worldwide. In the fiscal year 2020, the Group reported about $21,7B in net sales (the lowest result for the last 5 years). However, the H&M group’s online sales were up 50% in local currencies in Q4 2020 and the retailer managed to end the tough year profitably. Besides, net sales in local currencies increased by 12% in the first half of 2021 compared with the corresponding period last year. As more and more people are vaccinated and restrictions are eased, only 95 H&M stores were temporarily closed this year. Hence, the company is slowly returning to pre-pandemic sales levels. It’s also going to expand to a new market – Cambodia – via franchise in 2022.

The brand is continuing to focus on digital growth, optimisation of the store portfolio and integration of online and physical stores. Its newest initiatives to improve customer experience include the “Find in Store” feature allowing customers to see in which stores they can find a specific item in the size they want, garment rental, second-hand garment collecting, made-to-measure jeans, repairs, alterations, climate-smart deliveries, Scan & Buy option enabling the using the QR code on a product in store to find and buy the item online in the required size and colour, online returns in store, buy now pay later option for loyal customers, and image recognition that helps customers find the right product based on pictures they have taken or been inspired by.

Axel Johnson

The Axel Johnson Group is a Swedish family-owned company that consists of four legally and financially independent groups. It was founded in 1873 and is now managed by the fourth and fifth generations of the Antonia Ax:son Johnson family. The Group currently comprises Axel Johnson International, AxSol, KICKS, Martin & Servera, Novax, Åhléns, and online skincare clinic Skincity, as well as the partly owned listed companies Axfood (50.1 %) and Dustin (29.8 %). Total annual sales of those companies in 2020 equaled SEK 87 billion ($10B).

Axfood is one of Sweden’s leading companies in the retail grocery industry with the mission to supply high quality, sustainable food. Axfood’s private label products today account for over 25% of the products sold by store chains nationwide. Its net sales in 2020 contributed SEK 53.7 billion ($6.2B) to the overall corporate gains.

Åhléns is a department store chain that aims to be inclusive and sustainable. It offers beauty, fashion, home, entertainment and children products. The Åhléns net sales equaled SEK 4.3 billion ($500 million).

KICKS is one of the leading beauty chains in Scandinavia that offers a holistic concept in makeup, fragrances, skincare and haircare. It also provides services from well-trained beauty experts, make-up artists and skin therapists. The net sales in 2020 were SEK 3.3 billion ($380 million).

Skincity offers a free online test for its customers to discover the best skincare routine and suitable products. Besides answering multiple questions, clients can also upload their facial image for precise recommendations. The company has shown strong growth in 2020 as many people were forced out of beauty parlours. Since Axel Johnson first invested in the company in 2017, Skincity’s sales have more than doubled from SEK 277 million to SEK 560 million ($65 million).

Coop Danmark

One of Denmark’s leading consumer goods retailers, Coop Danmark, operates more than 1,000 outlets, from hypermarkets, supermarkets and mini-markets to discount stores under the Fakta, Irma, Kvickly, SuperBrugsen, Shopping, MAD, and Dagli’Brugsen brands. The Company offers electronic goods, sports equipment, household appliances, apparels, and beverages. Coop Danmark and the subsidiaries have an annual turnover of approximately DKK 42 billion ($6.7B).

The cooperative businesses have seen practically no disruptions from the pandemic prevention measures. Supermarkets were largely allowed to stay open in Nordic countries during the lockdowns. Therefore, Coop’s subsidiary Kvickly has pledged to set aside some of its extra proceeds for marketing purposes on behalf of smaller local retailers.

The company uses RELEX AI-based tools for more accurate demand forecasting and replenishment planning. These solutions help the retailer to cut waste and inventory levels in all stores and DCs, minimise stockouts and overstocks, reduce manual labor though automation, as well as increase on-shelf availability and improve sales. Their long-term goal is to create a more flexible and sustainable shopping experience and realise the vision of zero waste for fresh food.

In 2020, Coop Danmark took another step in the sustainability direction. The company launched a new function on its mobile app allowing customers to track their climate impact and take the climate-friendly choice when shopping. The new tool includes the imprint for production, processing and transport of the goods to the store as well as food waste along the way from production to store shelves. Coop has furthermore stated that they will make the method behind the climate calculation available free of charge to the grocery stores that will use it for similar purposes.


IKEA is an iconic home design retailer founded in Sweden. The company designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture, kitchen appliances and home accessories, other goods and home services. It has only 445 brand stores across 52 countries. Nearly 70% of the stores are located in Europe. They are mostly large, warehouse-like buildings located in major cities. However, Ikea is experimenting with smaller stores and “kitchen-planning studies” now, planning to open 50 new locations in the near future.

IKEA has recently expanded its offerings to satisfy the growing demand for a smart home environment. In cooperation with Sonos, the Swedish brand introduced a new compact SYMFONISK picture frame WiFi speaker that serves both as a piece of art and high-quality sound source. It has also launched the first smart air purifier, STARKVIND that can be controlled and scheduled via the IKEA Home smart app.

The largest furniture retailer has seen its online sales grow by 45% last year, while expanding its e-commerce offerings to three new markets, including China. Inter IKEA Group reached total revenues of EUR 23.7 billion ($28B) including wholesale sales to retailers, franchise fees and the retail sales of the IKEA Delft store and a net profit of EUR 1.7 billion ($2B) in FY20.


Pandora is a famous Danish jewellery manufacturer and retailer. It was founded 39 years ago as a family-owned small business and has grown to a network of more than 6,700 points of sale in over 100 countries. The Scandinavian brand is known for its customisable charm bracelets, pendants and beads, designer rings and necklaces. This popular jewellery is mainly made of recycled silver and gold.

In 2019, the Danish jewellery icon unveiled the plans of a global brand relaunch. Major changes were going to affect the brand’s expression, visual identity and store design. New online platforms, new partnerships and new products had already started boosting Pandora’s sales when coronavirus came along.

Pandora generated sales of DKK 19.0 billion (EUR 2.5 billion or $2.9 billion) in 2020. That was a 13% decline compared to the previous year. Profits also fell by almost a third, from DKK 2.95 billion ($ 469 million) in 2019 to DKK 1.94 billion ($ 308 million) in 2020. Although the company’s management remains optimistic about the future, in Q1 2021 new coronavirus lockdown measures had forced it to close a quarter of its physical stores again.

Therefore, the jeweller is now working hard on innovative omnichannel strategies. In many markets they have already deployed digital initiatives to improve customers’ online shopping experience. Some examples are Virtual Try-On, which allows the customer to picture products on their own hand, wrist, ears or neck, and Remote Shopping Assistant where customers are able to connect with store staff via live video chat. Customers can discuss the products with the store teams, who can both guide them through the sales process and show the products in the store.


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