Challenges face Sweden’s high streets

The Swedish Property Federation (Fastighetsägarna) reports that retail sales increased in town centres by 2.5% in 2016, while total sales increased by 5%. High streets now account for just 20% of the annual value of all retail sales while malls and out-of-town retail parks have a market share of almost 40%.

In a study of 52 town centres, the federation finds that food stores, tobacconists, Systembolaget and restaurants and cafés increasingly account for the small rise in high street sales and that new strategies are needed, as online sales take a greater share of the market. If town centres are to thrive, priority must be given to the construction of new housing and workplaces.

“Tax hikes: not the way forward”

Sweden faces a number of challenges, one of which is its ageing population. Other challenges include the housing shortage and immigrant integration, writes Jens Spendrup, chair of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise in a debate article in business daily Dagens Industri.

Public finances will come under strain in the next few years, but tax hikes are not the way forward, he argues. The fact that there are large and unexplained differences in the cost of public services around Sweden shows that there are significant efficiency gains to be made.

Above all, the Sweden’s business environment must improve so that more people dare set up companies, develop their ideas and recruit staff. Measures such as lower starting salaries and simple jobs that could be introduced, making it easier for companies to employ people and for the jobless to find work, Spendrup suggests