The decline in purchasing power among Finnish consumers is also reflected in travel trends to Estonia. Visits to Estonia are shorter than before, with a sharp rise in same-day trips. Visitors are particularly attracted by prices that are lower than in Finland.

According to a report by the Finnish Commerce Federation, there was an increase in the number of short shopping and holiday visits to Estonia last year. The increase was particularly marked among travellers based in southern Finland. The trend has continued into the new year as the percentage of same-day trips continues to grow and overnight stays in Estonia are becoming shorter. Approximately a third of all Finnish residents based in southern and western Finland visited Estonia last year, with the majority visiting on more than one occasion.

Although the loss in purchasing power has led to Finnish visitors spending less time in Estonia, it is by no means good news for the Finnish retail sector. People now visit Estonia for shopping, not holidays. The shopping is a draw for younger women in particular, while men over the age of 40 are attracted by prices.

The findings from border interviews carried out this year suggest that out of all product segments, the sales of cosmetics in particular have risen significantly. More than a third of all visitor to Estonia reported purchasing cosmetics. Cosmetics were particularly likely to feature on the shopping lists of families with children.

“Internationally, the trend is clear, consumers are opting for cheaper cosmetics brands. This trend can now be seen in the purchases made by Finnish shoppers in Estonia,” commented Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist at the Finnish Commerce Federation.

Finnish shoppers are attracted by the lower prices in Estonia, which is not surprising considering that consumer goods are on average 25 per cent cheaper than in Finland. Visitors who purchase alcohol in Estonia gave price as the most significant reason for their visit.

Price was a significant reason for travel for 63 per cent of all travellers to Estonia last year. Lower prices are a particular draw for same-day visitors and those who import alcohol using a vehicle, but unemployed, students and OAPs were also more likely than other groups to travel to Estonia due to lower prices. OAPs who travelled to Estonia in the first few months of the year had also travelled there in the previous year and were planning further trips later in the year.

On average, travellers to Estonia spend a total of EUR 137 per person onboard the ferry and at the destination. OAPs and the self-employed reported higher than average spending. The highest spenders are those who import alcohol by car.

Indeed, alcohol continues to be the most important factor for attracting Finnish visitors; just over 80 per cent of all travellers brought back alcohol to Finland. Of those motivated to travel to Estonia for lower prices, in excess of 90 per cent purchased alcoholic beverages for import.

More than a quarter of those bring their purchases back by car. Car use is particularly high among men and OAPs.

The Finnish Commerce Federation report is based on an online panel conducted by TNS Gallup (n = 2842), Finnish Statistics’ Finnish Travel 2013 report, comprising data from 840 journeys to Estonia as well as border interviews conducted by TAK Oy. The interviews were carried out in February and March 2014 and involved 1,101 ferry passengers travelling between Tallinn and Helsinki.

Finnish consumer behaviour in Estonia

The Finnish Commerce Federation represents commerce – the largest sector of economic life. Commerce employs around 300,000 persons in Finland. The Federation has around 7,000 member companies and represents both retail and wholesale commerce in industry politics and labour market lobbying.