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Long opening hours boost sales for big supermarkets

Hundreds of small shops have gone out of business since Finland liberalised store opening hours in 2016.

Työntekijä täyttää vihanneshyllyä supermarketissa.
Ready-made meals appeal to consumers in the evenings. Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

Hundreds of small shops have closed their doors since Finland deregulated opening hours in 2016. The change made it possible for stores to stay open 24 hours a day if they chose to.

The Finnish Grocery Trade Association (PTY) said deregulation has mainly benefited large supermarkets with more than 1,000 square metres of floor space. These large stores have seen sales grow by some 20 percent in the past four years, according to the association.

"Large supermarkets have been able to draw the most benefit from longer opening hours," Kari Luoto of PTY told Finnish News Agency STT.

Grocery stores smaller than 100 square metres have suffered the hardest blow, losing a fifth in sales. Over the past few years, hundreds of small shops have gone out of business. But Ilkka Alarotu, Senior Vice President at major local retailer S-Group's SOK, said it’s difficult to draw a straight line between longer opening hours and the closure of smaller stores.

"Smaller stores shutting down are part of urbanisation," he explained.

Before 2016, opening hours in Finland were limited during evenings and weekends at stores smaller than 400 square metres . However small kiosks were allowed to stay open longer, giving them a competitive advantage which they lost when rules governing opening hours disappeared.

More meals to-go

Saturday evenings and Sundays have now become popular times for residents to do their weekly grocery shopping. Stores also report selling more ready-made meals late in the evenings, particularly to shoppers under 25.

In 2016, Finland’s centre-right government said liberalising opening hours would positively impact employment. But in 2018 a report by Finland’s Ministry for Economic Affairs and Employment found that unlimited opening hours had only had a minimal impact on job creation.

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