Swedes return to Systembolaget

There was a glimmer of good news for Sweden's state-owned alcohol monopoly, Systembolaget, on Tuesday, as figures from the first six months of the year showed a slight increase in sales.

Measured in pure alcohol, sales were up 1.6% compared to the same period last year.

The growth comes against a backdrop of widespread calls for the Swedish government to slash alcohol taxes in order to reduce the incentive for people to import booze from abroad.

Sales of mixed drinks showed the most startling growth, increasing by 18.4% on last year. Wine sales were up 2.5% while sales of spirits, on which the tax is highest, fell by 3.8%.

“One reason why sales are increasing now could be a drop in imports,” said Systembolaget’s managing director, Anitra Steen.

“What’s more, we see that midsummer week this year had strong sales compared to the same period last year, despite the bad weather in June this year,” she said in a press statement.

The growth was not consistent across the country. The march back to Systembolaget was led by southern Sweden, long seen as one of the areas most susceptible to cheap imports, where sales increased by 4.5%.

By contrast, sales in Norrbotten, in the north of the country, slumped by 9.4%.