Record figures in supermarket trade helped S Group counter the coronavirus pandemic

Record figures in supermarket trade helped S Group counter the coronavirus pandemic

The coronavirus crisis had a twofold impact on S Group’s businesses in 2020. Supermarket trade achieved a large increase in sales and a record result, while travel industry and hospitality business suffered heavy setbacks. Other businesses made it through the difficult year with reasonable results.


S Group’s operating result (FAS) for 2020 was EUR 196 million, compared to EUR 345 million in the previous year. The whole S Group’s retail sales excluding taxes decreased by 0.7% and stood at slightly more than EUR 11.6 billion.

The sales of supermarket trade grew by 7.8% in 2020 from the previous year. The growth was primarily based on the increased sales of food. Consumer goods trade at Prisma superstores and the comparable sales of hardware trade also experienced fine growth.

“The sales of our supermarkets started growing strongly right from the beginning of the coronavirus crisis in March, and the fine rate of growth continued until the end of the year. We estimate that our brick-and-mortar grocery sales grew more than the market. Our online grocery sales grew more slowly than the market, mostly due to limited capacity. The Prisma and Sokos online stores developed very strongly. This year, we will take major leaps in the development of the online stores”, says Hannu Krook, who started working as the CEO of SOK at the turn of the year.

Travel industry and hospitality business lost nearly half their sales, making a loss. Sales of the ABC chain decreased by nearly 15%, but the chain still made a profit. The sales of the department store and speciality store trade decreased by nearly 20% as activity in city centres slowed down, and this field of business made a loss.

“It is extremely regrettable that the fine and successful work in travel industry and hospitality business was halted by the blow of the coronavirus. However, we worked hard and implemented successful adjustments in the business. Overall, we managed the situation reasonably well at the very least.”

In particular, Sokotel Oy, the subsidiary managing SOK’s hotel operations, suffered from the lack of business travellers and tourists in the Helsinki region. This had a strong impact on SOK Corporation’s result.

Despite the continuing coronavirus pandemic, S Group is looking firmly into the future. The total investments in 2020 were as high as EUR 642 million. The investments included the renovations of 200 S-market stores and the continuing renewal of the hotel network. Two completely new Sokos Hotels were opened: Tripla in Helsinki and Kupittaa in Turku.

The new responsibility programme places the customer at the centre

S Group updated its responsibility programme for 2021–2030. The new responsibility programme implements S Group’s mission to create a better place to live.

The greatest change made is shifting the focus more towards customers. In addition, the programme takes biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources more strongly into account. Customer sare assisted in making healthy and environmentally responsible decisions.

“Of course, our ambitious climate goals that were announced earlier are also included. Our goal is that S Group’s operations will be carbon negative by 2025,” Krook says.

Personnel satisfaction at a record level

Companies belonging to S Group measure their personnel’s job satisfaction, work atmosphere and satisfaction with the management and supervisory work through an annual survey. Despite all the challenges in the work of S Group employees resulting from the coronavirus situation, the employee experience was at a record level at S Group. The result reached the highest level of the scale used in the survey, and was considerably higher than the general standard in Finland used as a benchmark.

The results show that the appreciation of work in the trade and service industries has increased with the crisis, and people find their work more meaningful. Crisis management and supervisory work were also successful during the challenging year. In addition, S Group companies were able to implement agile and flexible arrangements such as moving hotel and restaurant staff to trade operations, where the need for workforce increased quickly.

“The results are great and show that we were able to make it through the challenging year really well. This is due to our working groups at all our sites, who have demonstrated excellent motivation and a great team spirit. Even under the challenging conditions, we were able to look after each other while increasing customers’ satisfaction with our services,” Krook says.

S Group’s and SOK Corporation’s key figures for January–December 2020

S Group as a whole (cooperatives + SOK Corporation), January–December 2020:

Retail sales excluding taxes totalled EUR 11,625 million (EUR 11,713 million).

The operating result was EUR 196 million (EUR 345 million).

Investments totalled EUR 642 million (EUR 498 million).

At the end of the year, there were 2,453,715 (2,425,167) co-op members.

Cooperatives paid a total of EUR 358 million (EUR 341 million) in Bonus to co-op members.

An average amount of EUR 169 was paid to co-op member households during the year, when including payment method-related benefit, return of surplus and interest on the membership fee in addition to Bonus.

At the end of the year, the number of employees was 38,585 (37,764). The number has been calculated on the basis of active employment relationships.

The total number of outlets at the end of the year was 1,849 (1,854).

SOK Corporation (SOK + subsidiaries), January–December 2020:

Net sales (IFRS) were EUR 7,600 million (EUR 7,497 million).

The operating result (IFRS) was EUR –3 million (EUR 102 million).

Investments totalled EUR 94 million (EUR 73 million).

At the end of the year, the number of personnel was 6,140 (6,453). The number has been calculated on the basis of active employment relationships.

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