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Food retailer ICA Sweden goes ecommerce

ICA Sweden is making advanced plans opening an online store later this year. The idea is to give franchisees the opportunity to run their own local online ICA store, while ICA Sweden itself will start an centralized online store. “We think now the time is right.”

The Swedish grocery retailer isn’t fully unfamiliar with ecommerce, as some of its individual retailers started experimenting with online stores in the 00’s. But it’s the first time ICA Sweden itself is thinking seriously about setting foot into ecommerce. According to ComputerSweden the goal for ICA is to eventually become market leader. “We believe in rapid growth”, says Anders Svensson, CEO of ICA Sweden.

Decentralized and centralized online stores
The Swedish company has started creating an ecommerce platform for their franchisees. It should be up and running in the second half of this year. The merchants can decide for themselves if they wish to sell their goods online, which goods they want to put up for sale and for what price. So it can really become a decentralized online store. But ICA is also making an centralized effort to make an online store for the rarely sold goods, like barbeque sets, kitchen equipment and other stuff that is now being sold from their Maxi Stores.

During the early 2000s some ICA franchisees already jumped on the ecommerce train, but it seemed that the time was not ripe and those initiatives died pretty quick. But those were individual ICA retailers who went online, now it’s becoming a central initiative, established by ICA Sweden. The first step into ecommerce on a central level was taken when the grocery bag industry began to grow and ICA started their own version with Linas Matkasse.

“Yes, now we think the time is right. The technology exists and we have our cell phones constantly with us. Apps and the knowledge of how to properly use them are already here, while changes in the demographics are also in our favor. There are increasingly more dual career families, so doing the groceries should be happening more online”, says Svensson. In the article he is very careful to point out that he sees no problems between ecommerce and the traditional stores. ”The e-trade cannot be taken out for themselves, but it is connected to our physical stores.”

Combining several services on one platform
“What we are doing now, is getting all those pieces together. We are the largest food site with a million unique visitors per week. But online we also have our own bank (ICA Banken), our own pharmacy (Cura Apoteket) and our goal is to get all these things into a single concept online. We have carefully monitored and followed our customers wishes for simplicity and comfortable solutions and their inspiration and predictions for the ecommerce market.”

If you look at the figures, one can see that in Sweden food and beverage online has not taken off yet. It accounts for only 6% of the total e-business and only 1% of the total food sector. But in 2012 it increased by 30%, so in a market with potential and rapid growth where it is possible to quickly establish yourselves, it’s a hitting point for a player like ICA.

Our Swedish contact Peter Cederblad, working at SveaWebPay, is very happy with this move from ICA. “It’s really happening now, that’s so cool! Online stores are really going local now, from a local merchant to an local audience. I see a future of small stores everywhere! And the fun thing is: they were killed by corporate supermarkets, but now they get the chance to come back with an online store. I like seeing that.”

ICA Gruppen AB is one of the leading retail companies in the Nordic region, with about 2,400 of its own and retailer-owned stores in Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

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