French Picard enters Scandinavia

Picard store
The new Picard store in Norway is strategically established close to the French school, the Franco-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce and the French Embassy in the neighborhood. That is probably no disadvantage but cannot be copied in Norway.
By Reidar Molthe

18 October 2019 08:50

French Picard enters Scandinavia

French frozen specialist, Picard, wants to grow in Sweden after several years of closures and losses. The owner of Picard Scandinavia, Knut Faremo, draws inspiration from Picard's first store in Norway and will spice up the concept in Sweden shortly. Denmark and Finland are in the cast in 2020. Faremo has ambitions. No doubt.

Knut Faremo
Customer surveys in France show that Picard is the most popular store in the market. Not among grocery stores only, but “the store”- in competition with giants like Amazon and Fnac, boast Knut Faremo to Dagbladet, a national newspaper.

Picard’s Swedish franchise has long struggled with red numbers and store closures, but Knut Faremo believes it has a great potential in Sweden.

The result has been negative since 2013, but after Knut Faremo, former Executive Vice President in NorgesGruppen, stepped in as a 100% owner in August 2018 the outlook is brighter.

”It is light in the tunnel,” Faremo claims.

“Losses have decreased significantly, but the idea is not to save and cut further, no, now we need to invest and increase sales,” he states.

“So far, we there have been invested about 100 million SEK in Sweden, and we have listing both in ICA and Coop which gives our brand a great advantage in terms of marketing and not least in terms of knowledge. We have truckloads going directly from France to supermarkets every week. That is very exciting, but just now we struggle with a weak krone both in Norway and Sweden. From that point of view Denmark is better (stronger krone) and not to speak about Finland which have the euro.”

“When do you plan to enter Finland and Denmark?”

“We are looking into it. We probably enter Denmark in the autumn 2020 and maybe Finland in 2021? No exact date is fixed yet.”

Flagship store in Oslo

Faremo has recently opened an upmarket Picard store in Oslo. The concept in Oslo has been well received by the press and customers alike, both for its high-quality products and inviting store concept.

Now the chain will change all stores in Sweden to a concept close to the one in Norway. The new concept has a completely different atmosphere to already established Picard stores in Sweden, with a warmer premium feel, new wooden floors, new standing freezers, digital shelf labels and seating for those who want to take a snack on site.

“Picard's products have a high reputation among consumers in Sweden, but the challenge has been to convey the same feeling when it comes to the store network. The ambition is to complete the transition in Sweden within a year,” says Faremo.

Will grow in Norway and Sweden

When all nine existing stores in Sweden are converted, the plan is to widen the store network with another two to three new stores in the Stockholm area. It will be focused on areas with a lot of people, close to residential areas or office-friendly locations. The first new store is expected to open before next summer.

“We have looked at many premises already and we have a couple of promising ones that we consider. But, we are also very picky about the sites,” says the former grocer from Lillesand.

Faremo underlines that there are huge differences between Norway and Sweden structurally and culturally.

“We speak nearly the same language, but we really do not understand each other that well. The consumption pattern is different, and we need to adapt assortments locally.”

Iceland – competitor or complementary retailer?

The British concept, Iceland, is already in place in Norway since a year and a half ago. According to the CEO, Geir Opheim, the development is satisfactory with five stores running hitherto. Iceland is also marketing their products in Europris, Circle K and Fjordline.

Both Iceland and Picard are so small in Norway that they will not compete, but rather complement each other, believe both Faremo and Opheim, and be an alternative to established Norwegian chains.

With almost 4,000 grocery stores in the Norwegian market alone (70% discount), ten, fifteen, maybe twenty high-profile frozen goods stores will not be a challenge for NorgesGruppen, Coop or Rema 1000, but rather an inspiration that can make the grocery business in Norway more exciting.

However, Faremo finds reason to emphasize that although both Iceland and Picard specialize in frozen goods, there are large differences in quality.

“After all, Iceland is a low-cost concept. Take the cod from the Norwegian Sea we sell – it is shipped straight to land and shock-frozen at Picard's plant in northern Norway. In the case of Iceland and, for that matter, Findus (Nomad Foods Europe) the cod is frozen on board, shipped to China, thawed, filtered and frozen again before being sent back to Norway. This gives huge differences in quality, emphasizes Faremo smilingly.

Geir O. Opheim disagree with Faremo’s quality comparison.

“We have a much wider range than Picard, with both low-cost and high-quality lines. This way, the customer can choose what he prefers,” he concludes.

"In fish we have a large selection of products, and only a very few cod products are filtered in China. Our wide portfolio includes breaded fish, gratin and fish with sauce, which have been voted best in test. All sustainably fished and MSC certified. In other words, we are fully committed to the quality of our products," says Malin Valdal Corneliussen, Marketing Director Findus Norway.

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