Switzerland’s two biggest retailers continued to grow in 2003 despite sluggish market conditions.
Coop announced a 5.6 per cent jump in sales last year, bringing it closer to its main rival, Migros, which saw sales nudge up by one per cent.
“Last year was the worst for the Swiss retail market in 15 years,” market analyst, Thomas Hochreutener, told swissinfo. “Even though the food industry expanded, the non-food industry saw a big drop.”
On Friday Migros announced that its overall sales jumped to SFr20 billion ($16.4 billion) in 2003.
But the market leader also reported a slump in business at its department stores and at its travel subsidiary, Hotelplan, where sales plunged by SFr368 million to SFr1.7 billion.
The Swiss Retail Federation (SRF) said the two market leaders had both benefited from expanding their stores. Coop expanded its sales surface by almost nine per cent last year following the acquisition of Waro and EPA stores.
“Migros and Coop are continuously growing as they both have large sales surfaces,” Peter Saner, director of the SRF, told swissinfo.
But Coop stressed that size wasn’t everything.
“We have become a dynamic business,” said Coop spokesman, Karl Weisskopf. “We don’t want to be the biggest, but the best retailer in Switzerland.”
Migros, dubbed the “orange giant”, has welcomed the challenge.
“We are not against fierce competition. We need it to stimulate our business,” said Migros spokesman, Urs-Peter Naef.
But the SRF pointed out that the growth in the two retail players’ market share coupled with poor market conditions would leave Switzerland’s smaller businesses worse off.
“The problem is that if the big retailers grow, the smaller ones will lose out,” Saner explained.
Switzerland’s third biggest retailer, the Manor group, announced a 0.8 per cent drop to SFr3.05 billion, while the Spar group’s turnover remained stable at SFr790 million.
Only petrol stations fared better, Saner said.
“Petrol stations are the exceptions, growing by about 25 per cent because of more favourable conditions such as longer opening hours.”
Migros Group posted sales of SFr20 billion in 2003, up one per cent.
Coop recorded sales of SFr14.5 billion in 2003, up 5.6 per cent.
Manor saw a drop in sales of 0.8 per cent and achieved sales of about SFr3 million.
The retail market has shrunk by 0.4 per cent.
Migros and Coop together make up 73 per cent of the food market.
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