Focus on The Swedish Market

The Market

Sweden has a population of 9.3 million people of which about 90% is living in the Southern part of the country. As a result of the baby boom in the recent years, the number of young people is increasing in near future. On the other hand, the average lifespan is also high, meaning that the number and age of pensioners is increasing. In addition, pensioners remain active long into old age and have a relatively good purchasing power.

The total of goods imported amounted to € 80.9 bn (2004), of which 70 % were goods for the assembly industry. The major imports are machinery and transport equipment (47 %), chemicals (12 %) and minerals (8 %). Two thirds of Swedish imports come from the EU, with the major import partners being Germany (18 %) and the UK (8 %). Over the last few decades, import from rapidly developing Asian countries has been increasing.

Kenya’s trade with Sweden has continued to be skewed in favour of Sweden. The trade deficit with Sweden rose by an annual average of 111% from US $ 11.5 million in 2004 to US $ 75.15 million in 2008. This is a result of continued higher rise in Kenya’s imports from Sweden compared to exports. The exports grew on annual average by 14% over the period 2004 to 2008. The main export products to Sweden in 2008 were Coffee (85%) and horticultural products (13%). On the other hand, Sweden imports from Kenya rose from US $ 25 million 2004 to US $ 98 million in 2008 representing an annual growth rate of 59%. The key import products were telecommunication equipment, paper products, pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles, construction and mechanical equipment.

Life and Consumption Patterns

The average income is high in international comparison; the gross domestic product per capita is in the order of € 30,000 per year. Sweden like the other Scandinavian countries has some of the highest tax levels in the world. The tax systems are progressive, higher incomes pay more. It is quite common that people pay
more than 50 % of their top income in tax.

In comparison with many other European inhabitants, Scandinavians tend to use a relatively large part of the income on housing and relatively less on other areas. Housing accounts for over 20% of household expenditure, whereas foodstuffs and beverages only represent 13 – 15% of the average household expenditure.

The Swedish as the case is in the entire Scandinavia live, to an increasing extent, in single person households. On average, this represents 38 % of the households (17 % of the population). University students move away from home, people are getting married late, and the divorce rate is high. Elderly people also tend to live by themselves.

Between 72 - 75 % of women between the ages of 15 and 64 years (2002) work outside the home: the high frequency of women working reflects a highly-developed public sector with adequate day care institutions for children.  About 50 % of the population in Scandinavia have a high school degree and nearly 20 % a university
Degree. Education is equally distributed between the genders.


Swedish consumers have a lot of money to spend, but also have many alternatives for spending it. To persuade the consumers to spend more money on your products, companies should invest heavily on advertising and promotional activities to create impact.

Below are some of the trends driving consumption in Sweden;
  • Corporate Social Responsibility is of increasing importance. Many companies demand that their suppliers confirm to different codes-of-conduct in order to avoid for example the use of child labour or violating the environment. Useful information on CSR can be found on www.oecd.org.
  • Demand for organic food is increasing. Read more in the market report Organic Food.
  • Consumers do care a lot for their health. The market for health food is still young, but growing. Find out more in the market report Health Food Products.
  • Import of home textiles is not as much affected by the latest economic crisis compared to the total home decoration sector.
  • Increasing demand for “Private Labels” in the textiles category
  • Big market players are getting bigger (making them stronger and dictate terms)
  • Increasing competition as a result of entry of new players
  • Wholesalers and brands are increasingly integrating forwards into retail and retailers integrate backwards (to control as much as possible of the supply chain)
  • Move from local shopping to external malls and centres
  • Move to niche concepts
These have to be taken into account when targeting the Swedish market.

Consumer Characteristics

The following are the consumer characteristics in Sweden;
  • Single households, older parents and active older people. Many people are living single especially in cities, others delay child birth and having families. Mothers are older and financially better off. On the other hand, elderly people are very active and travel often and for long periods.
  • High purchasing power and variety seeking.    

Business Culture in Sweden

If you are hoping to export successfully to Sweden, the following are some of the rules you have to memorise and apply;
  • Be honest in all things
  • All agreements in writing and signed
  • Uncommon to give and receive gifts
  • Come to meeting exactly on time
  • Inform of delays right away
  • Do not be over-ambitious and over promise when estimating delivery times

Swedish Mentality

  • Swedes put rules before relationships
  • Swedes quickly get down to business
  • Swedes often do not use tittles
  • Informal clothing during working hours and formal when dinning
  • Men and women are treated equally
  • Age neutrality i.e. age and seniority not important.
  • Swedes expect you to stick to the negotiated agreement
  • Swedes are direct, no “face saving”
  • Takes turns talking. Swedes do not interrupt when one is talking and take offence when interrupted.
  • Swedes like everything to be fair
  • Superior attitude. Do not take offence when the Swedes give the impression that they are more superior to other nationalities, since this could be because they are proud of their country.
  • Not very religious
  • Long summer vacations
  • Small power distance
  • Swedes do not like conflicts
  • Appreciate personal space and no body contact

How to Succeed in the Swedish Market

To succeed in the Swedish market, you have to keep the following basic points in mind.
  • Swedes are more interested in business results than relationships- do not expect a lot of small talk
  • Swedes will focus on your company’s speed , price, quality, organisation, logistics, reputation, and supply chain and your offer rather than on gifts from supplier to purchaser
  • Remain calm at all times and allow the Swede avoid conflict and uncomfortable situations
  • Allow everyone enough time to come into conversation and do not expect to be interrupted
  • Do not see silence as something negative
  • Do not be dishonest about anything
  • Be prepared for the Swedes to be inflexible, since they may feel they are starting at a ‘fair’ price
  • Do not stand too close or touch too much
  • Do not be surprised if the Swedes treats everyone as equal regardless of status, position or sex.
  • Be aware that Swedes like to make decisions in groups. Your contact may require time to consult the group to make a decision.

chss business translation business financeaccounting managementscience economics ids idis awsc arts african-studies arabic confucius french geography history kiswahili languageskills linguistics literature philosophy politicalscience journalism psychology sociology koreanstudies dlis acfrn law-school commerciallaw privatelaw publiclaw psri caselap kisumu mombasa