Still difficult for ICA

ICA CEO Nina Jönsson. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT/ICA Press Photo
ICA CEO Nina Jönsson. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT/ICA Press Photo
By Reidar Molthe

22 February 2024 13:09

Still difficult for ICA

ICA, once the clear winner in the Swedish grocery market, is again losing market shares to Axfood. The relatively new CEO of ICA AB, Nina Jönsson, claims that things are getting better for ICA towards the end of 2023 after extensive measures, not least on the price and cost side.

“We and the market continue to be affected by cost inflation and extremely high food price inflation in the fourth quarter, with all that it means in stresses throughout the value chain and for our customers. The group as a whole had a relatively stable development but with variations in the earnings development between the group's different businesses. Just before Christmas we announced two big real estate deals that will help us lower our net debt. Operating cash flow was also strong,” says Nina Jönsson in a press release.

In the fourth quarter, the Swedish grocery market grew by 7.6 percent and for the full year 2022 growth was 5.7 percent.

Good figures if food price inflation had not been so high at the same time, 17.8 percent in the fourth quarter and 11 percent for the whole of 2022. Thus, the volume trend continues to be negative for ICA.

Volume decline is bad, but losing market shares is even worse in this business, where your negotiating power as a retailer in many respects is an effect of the development in market shares.

"Of great importance to us now is reversing the trend of falling volumes and market shares"

CEO of ICA, Nina Jönsson

“We have a lower result and margins than last year in ICA Sweden. We see here effects from inflation, higher campaign share and price investments. In addition, the profit sharing from the ICA stores is lower given that the store results are now falling compared to 2021.
Of immense importance to us now is reversing the trend of falling volumes and market shares. There are a number of initiatives underway to get there and that will mean savings and efficiencies but also investments in 2023.

Of significant importance is of course to be able to meet the customers' demands for good and affordable products, and there we work closely with the ICA retailers to calibrate the organisation correctly.

Own brand products and developing our loyalty program are important ingredients in this work, as well as making use of the breadth of our business. Creating a winning offer for food, pharmacy, mortgage, bank, and insurance increases our growth power, and makes a difference in our customers' everyday lives,” resonates Nina Jönsson.

This shows that ICA is still in more or less the same trouble as her predecessor, Per Strömberg, handed over to her in January 2023.


It helps a little that ICA AB eases the balance by partially selling two properties, AMF and Catena, but that deal will never be decisive. What is critical for ICA is whether the group manages to set up a successful low-cost concept or not.

It was and still is a mystery that they have not yet produced such an idea after decades of a huge discount trend in the whole of Europe in general, and especially in Scandinavia.

In the long run, you cannot keep discount prices with a supermarket concept. It is a contradiction that sooner or later have a negative impact on the bottom line.

Is there something in the "ICA culture" that opposes "low price"? A lot can indicate that. In Norway, a successful low-cost concept - RIMI – was replaced with small, expensive supermarkets that never worked. Sharply worded; that decision was the end of ICA in the Norwegian market at a cost of, give and take, 3 billion NOK.

Sources: ICA, Axfood, NHH, Expressen, Dagligvarunytt.

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