A traditional supermarket with a modern vision

As the entrance doors slide open at ICA Supermarket Norrköp, visitors feel immediately welcome in the orderly, well-stocked store. Right beside the entrance stands a large wooden cart, filled to the brim with attractive special offers. This supermarket sells smoked hams and matured cheeses you never knew existed. The store is manned by quality-trained staff and run by store-owner Håkan Engström, who has every right to be proud. His supermarket boasts Soliditet’s highest ranking, AAA (Triple-A).

Congratulations, Håkan! What was your initial reaction when you heard the news?
“Thank you! It’s great to be given an official seal of approval for our financial stability. Actually, the first time we were recognised by a credit rating agency was back in the 1980s.”

What benefits do you receive from being able to advertise your financial stability?
“For the suppliers of our products and services, it provides a guarantee that we will pay in the appropriate manner, while for our staff, it vouches for our long-term capacity to pay out salaries, insurances, employer’s national insurance contributions, and so on. Furthermore, it lets our customers know we are a company who takes care of its commitments in respect of the authorities and inspection bodies.”

Is it possible your focus on financial stability could be interpreted as a safety-first approach to risk taking?
“Without doubt. I’m sure many of the 94 per cent of companies who do not have the highest credit rating say the same thing – and they’d be right. We are happy to wait a little longer before making investments in order to ensure we have the capacity to cover our commitments. I was brought up with this approach to business, which I also apply to my private undertakings.”

What is your view on morals and ethics in the business world?
“I don’t want to seem holier than thou by going into detail, but there are two things I really feel strongly about. Firstly, greed – and I’m talking here mainly about the central Group management of banks, rather than the local branches. The combination of sky-high salaries and bonus systems has got way out of hand. You can also see this trend in other sectors. Secondly, I feel strongly about disloyal competitors. The price of products and services consists of many elements: salaries, holiday pay, VAT, contractual insurances, inspection fees, certification ...yes, the list goes on. This may be obvious to most people, but those who take short cuts are gaining an unfair competitive advantage.”

Is there anything you wish to add regarding the company’s recognition by Soliditet?
“Even though this ranking may not be something we have prioritised, it goes without saying it’s an important seal of approval that shows our customers, our suppliers and our staff that we live up to the high standards we set. Every meeting with every customer may not go 100% as planned, but at least our ambitions are crystal clear.”

Established back in 1963, Norrköp is a traditional supermarket with a loyal core of regular customers. However, far from resting on its laurels, plans are afoot to further develop the store. The entrance is currently being reconstructed, which will make room for a wider range of products, while an e-commerce service is also under development. During the summer, the store was certified in accordance with the industry’s quality standards. In addition, more and more people are discovering the store’s excellent catering service.

Håkan Engström may be coming to the end of his long career in the industry, but he is keen that the supermarket continues to be run in the same spirit created by him and his employees. With this in mind, the process of handing over operational responsibility to the younger generation is being handled calmly and carefully. This is an ICA supermarket seeking to preserve its tradition, modernise, and ensure quality – all at the same time!


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