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SHOPPING

Fine weather makes Swedes spend: study

A warm summer makes Swedes more likely to dig deep and spend their hard-earned cash more freely, researchers have claimed.

Fine weather makes Swedes spend: study
When the sun is shining, Swedes take three scoops. File photo: TT
The summer puts us in better mood, makes us more social and also encourages our benevolent sides, according to Swedish researcher John Magnus Roos at the Centre for Consumer Science in Gothenburg. 
 
"In the short term, sun and heat benefit among other things, restaurants in coastal areas, ice cream shops, and shops selling shorts and t-shirts," Roos observed.
 
"Impulse buying is more common where for example someone may buy a shirt or two without even trying them on."
 
Home decoration and consumer electronics are however identified as losers in the summer sun. 
 
According to the researchers, the weather affects primarily two factors – mood and how much time you spend in a store. 
 
"If the weather is bad we shop by way of compensation. If it is good weather, we buy because you are usually in a good mood," Roos explained.
 
"Sure, the heat can also be a stress factor – but it often leads to taking the first best thing you can find without going around and comparing prices," he added. 
 
The heat wave also makes us more outgoing, according to John Magnus Roos This conclusion has been made due to the fact that we buy more gifts, donate more to charity and eat more organic products. 
 
The economy as a whole can benefit from summers like 2014, Roos believed.
 
"We've got the sun that many people have been longing for – and therefore we can stay home in the fall and spend money in the country instead of during a charter trip. In addition, a summer like this is in the long run good for foreign consumption in Sweden."
 
Researchers have also noted that bad weather leads to an increase in online shopping.
 
"Purely rational thinking would mean that we would buy more online when it is nice weather so that we can go out the rest of the time. But we choose to spend more time doing it when it is rainy and windy.

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SHOPPING

The unmanned supermarkets rescuing Sweden’s rural areas

One after another, grocery stores are shutting down in rural Sweden, leaving villagers to travel miles to buy food. But a new type of shop has sprung up in their wake: unmanned supermarkets in mobile containers.

The unmanned supermarkets rescuing Sweden's rural areas
Store manager Domenica Gerlach enters the Lifvs unmanned supermarket store in Veckholm, 80km outside Stockholm. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand /AFP

In Veckholm, a village of a few hundred people 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Stockholm, the last grocery store closed more than a decade ago. Then, a year-and-a-half ago, even the little convenience store at the only petrol station locked its doors.

Villagers were left with no choice but to travel a half-hour by car to the closest supermarket.

But in July 2020, an automated, unmanned grocery store came to town. In a container dropped in the middle of a field, open 24 hours a day, the 20-square-metre (215-square-foot) supermarket sells hundreds of items — and there’s no cashier in sight.

“Since a while back, there has been nothing in this area and I think most of us living here have really missed that,” said Giulia Ray, a beekeeper in
Veckholm. 

“It’s so convenient to have this in the area,” she told AFP, doing her own shopping and restocking the shop’s shelves with her honey at the same time.

Shoppers unlock the supermarket’s door with an app on their smartphone. “We come here three times a week and buy stuff we need,” Lucas Edman, a technician working in the region for a few weeks, told AFP. “It’s a little bit more expensive but it’s fine. It’s a price I can pay to not go to another store.”

He scanned his pizzas and soda on the app on his phone, which is linked to his bank account and a national identification system — an added anti-theft security, according to the store. And it’s all done under the watchful eye of a single security camera.

Keeping costs down

In Sweden, the number of grocery stores — everything from superstores to small convenience stores — has dropped from 7,169 in 1996 to 5,180 in 2020, according to official statistics.

While the number of superstores has almost tripled in 24 years, many rural shops have closed down, often due, like elsewhere in Europe, to a lack of
profitability.

Daniel Lundh, who co-founded the Lifvs, has opened almost 30 unmanned stores in rural Sweden and in urban areas with no shops in the past two years.

“To be able to keep low prices for the customer, we have to be able to control our operation costs. So that means controlling the rent — that’s why
the stores are quite small — but also controlling the staffing cost,” Lundh said.

He plans to open his first unstaffed supermarkets outside Sweden early next year.

Domenica Gerlach, who manages the Veckholm store, only comes by once a week to receive deliveries. She also manages three other shops, all of them mobile containers.

Peter Book, the mayor of Enkoping, the municipality to which Veckholm belongs, has only good things to say about the three container stores that
have opened in his patch. And he’d like to see more.

“It makes it easier to take a step to move there if you know you have this facility,” he said.

Meeting place and ‘salvation’

In Sweden, one of the most digitalised countries in the world, Lifvs, like its Swedish rivals AutoMat and 24Food which have also popped up in rural
areas, benefits from a very wired population.

In 2019, 92 percent of Swedes had a smartphone. Ironically, the unmanned shops — plopped down in the middle of nowhere — also play a role as a “meeting place” for locals.

“You come here, you get some gas and you go inside and get something, and maybe someone else is here and you can have a chat,” Ray said.
Mayor Book echoed the notion, saying the stores make it possible to connect society”.

The pandemic has also proven the stores’ usefulness, since no contact with other people inside the shop is necessary.

Because of Covid-19, only one person at a time is allowed inside the Veckholm store.

“My mother lives nearby as well and … this has been a shop she could actually enter during all this time. She hasn’t been (able to go) anywhere,”
Ray said of her 75-year-old mother. “This has been a salvation for her.”

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