Swedes give cut-price stores low marks

Swedish consumers may be turning in large numbers to bargain supermarkets from the continent, but a new survey shows they still prefer Sweden's established food retailers. They also maintain that while they are happy with the assortments on sale at the pharmacy and alcohol retail monopolies, they would prefer to see them abolished.

European cut-price chains Lidl and Netto have been shaking up the Swedish grocery market in the past few years, promising customers food and household supplies at prices way below those of the traditional Swedish supermarkets.

But an annual survey presented by Svensk kvalitetsindex (the Swedish Quality Inde), SKI, shows that ICA, Coop and Axfood stores still have higher customer satisfaction rates. City Gross, Ica-Maxi and Prisextra were the top rated supermarkets. The supermarkets that focus on price have lost out.

“Those that have focused strongly on price have lost out in satisfaction,” said Jan Eklöf at SKI.

“There is a lot of focus on price, but service is not keeping up,” he said. While satisfaction was lowest in the cut-price stores, there was a generally low level of appreciation for the cheaper supermarkets.

“We think that lots of other things in society have got better, but not grocery stores,” he said.

A majority of people who shop at the state-run Systembolaget alcohol stores would like to see the company’s monopoly abolished, although the proportion calling for the monopoly to end has fallen.

Three out of four customers said they had bought alcoholic drinks elsewhere in the past six months, the majority through private imports. The average Systembolaget customer buys one third of his or her alcoholic drinks from other sources.

Most give the company’s product range and quality high marks, although the stores’ service is viewed as lacklustre.

Apoteket, the state-owned pharmacy monopoly also had steady customer satisfaction although many consumers question whether Apoteket should keep its monopoly on non-prescription drugs.

For the third year, construction material chains like K-Rauta and ByggMax have been included in the survey. They earned top marks in all categories.