Specialty goods got retail trade growing – international competition intensifies
Retail business turnover developed well in 2019. A spike in specialty and department store trade during late summer and autumn sped up the growth. However, the employment rate of the retail sector dropped from last year due to increased efficiency of supply chains and operations as well as automation and international competition, among other things.
According to preliminary information, retail trade grew by a bit over two per cent last year. Growth was especially strong from July to October when most holiday bonuses and tax refunds were paid. The spike in sales over late summer and autumn was especially visible in the sales of home electronics, sporting goods as well as in the specialty goods trade of interior decoration and household goods. After a slow start for the year in the specialty goods trade in clothing, the autumn was very good and trade in clothes saw its first growth since 2012.
Strict competition in the specialty goods trade caused prices to drop: the euro-denominated turnover grew slower than turnover adjusted for price fluctuations. The price drop in home electronics and electronics in general is affected also by constant technological development.
Total wholesale turnover did not grow during last year, but wholesale trade developed well in different ways. The growth of sales of machines, devices and information technology was especially strong.
Commerce competitive strength must be ensured in order to reach employment targets
Despite the growth of turnover, employment rate in the retail sector reached its lowest point of the tracking period, which started in 2005. Employment dropped by 10,000 and the number of wage earners by 9,000, which means both the number of entrepreneurs and employees was reduced. However, the commerce sector still remains the largest employer in the private sector, with nearly 290,000 employed.
“If we want to reach the employment target set by the government and keep employment at a high level, commerce that employs in Finland will play a key role. The operational preconditions of commerce and international competitive strength should not be weakened by political decisions”, says Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist, Finnish Commerce Federation.
Tighter domestic and international competition in both the brick-and-mortar and online channels, along with the need to increase cost-efficiency, will continue to reduce the demand for labour. There is an increasingly strong drive to manage and shorten supply chains and economies of scale are being sought through chain formation, large central warehouses and cooperative purchasing, among other things.
Efficiency is improved by the automation and digitalisation of operations. At the same time, urbanisation and the aging of the population will change the structures of commerce.
The Finnish Commerce Federation forecasts employment in the retail sector to further decline by 3,000 people by 2022. However, turnover is not predicted to decrease even though the pace of growth slowed down compared to last year.
Appendix: Commerce sector outlook 2022 appendix
Further information: Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist, Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. +358 (0)40 820 5378, email@example.com