Regional Disparities in Food Retailing
INTRODUCTION Food retailing in the Baltic States has developed rapidly in recent times. The future structure is expected to become similar to that of other regions in the European Union. However, a similar market structure may not mean that businesses can expand from one region to another without taking differing consumer attitudes and cultures into account. This study examines differences between Baltic and Nordic food retailing and consumer behaviour based on an analysis of Estonia, Finland and Sweden. PURPOSE The purpose of the thesis is to highlight regional disparities between the Nordic and Baltic food retailing sectors in terms of market structure and consumer attitudes towards store types, own-label brands, low price brands and ecological products. METHOD The research has been conducted through a qualitative study of food retailers currently operating on the Estonian, Swedish and Finnish market. A quantitative study of consumer behaviour with students as the target group has also been carried out. Interviews and questionnaires were used to collect data that has been compared to the information collected by the literature study. CONCLUSION The study identified that the market situation in Estonia is still in a period of development with the largest and smallest store formats developing at a faster pace than mid-sized outlets. While the hard-discount format is relatively new for Nordic customers it is already maturing in Estonia. Despite companies’ internationalisation strategies, it is in their own interests to take local differences into account and take a more adaptive rather than standardised approach when expanding into Estonia. Nordic and Baltic consumers in the study group and their preferences for store and product choice are similar with a slightly higher level of curiosity and interest towards ecological products among the Estonians. For the retailers in Estonia, there is a potential to develop own-label and low-price brands which may experience initial success. However, in the longer term Estonian consumer attitudes towards such brands and foreign products could be an obstacle to their growth in the market.
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