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Denmark: Netto opens countryside store in town with 700 inhabitants

Discount Retail Chain Netto Denmark (owned by the Danish Salling Group) is located snugly in the bend at a roundabout in Skallebølle west of Odense. And to such an extent that already a year after its opening, the brand new store had to adapt to the previous holiday legislation, now simply the closing law after the end of Great Prayer Day and stay closed on public holidays in 2023 due to the size of the turnover.

Skallebølle is a small town on western Funen with approx. 700 inhabitants. Usually, Netto would not invest millions of dollars to build a new store in this location.

But the map showed that it was a blind spot with far to the nearest store and other Netto stores. At the same time, Skallebølle is located only about 15 kilometers west of Odense, 5 kilometers east of Vissenbjerg and quite close to exit 53 on the West Funen motorway, says Regional Manager Sebastian Vinther, Netto.

However, when put him and store manager Jon Steen Olsen together in the store, gravel has temporarily been added to the sales machine, as burying district heating pipes causes traffic to clump together at the roundabout.

`We have felt this in terms of turnover since the excavation work began after the summer holidays. According to the plan, it should be finished by the end of November, which we look forward to with the upcoming Christmas shopping in mind`, says Jon Steen Olsen.

Reopens on public holidays

The regional manager even has an early Christmas present for the store manager, as the store has been granted dispensation to be open again on public holidays. But the trap will fall again if the store has a turnover of more than DKK 82.8 million.

According to section 6 of the Danish Closure Act, the Danish Business Authority has the opportunity to allow grocery stores in rural areas to stay open on public holidays if there are no other grocery stores within a distance of approx. 4 km from the store applying for exemption.

However, according to the Danish Business Authority's interpretation of the Closing Act, an exemption cannot be granted if the store's turnover is more than twice as high as the turnover limit in section 5 of the Closing Act, which is currently DKK 41.4 million.

Although the small community is located on the border with Odense Municipality, the town belongs to Assens Municipality with the town hall all the way out towards the Little Belt.

Rema 1000 on the horizon

The store got off to a good start, as it has the catchment area here in Skallebølle, but also just as much the commuter route between Odense Middelfart, says the store manager, who can feel that the pressure is greatest when people have to shop on their way home from work. Before Netto could open in Skallebølle, the townspeople had to drive to the neighboring towns of Vissenbjerg or Tommerup to handle the shopping.

Prior to the opening, the discount chain had an expectation of how the new store would perform. And even though the store was judged to be doing well, the number crunchers in the chain had still missed the mark in relation to the employees the store needed.

Apart from the period of excavation work, the flow of customers has remained at a stable high level.

Local Facebook group

The local support for the Netto store resulted in a local Facebook group "Ja tak til Netto i Skallebølle" with 700 followers. The interest grew during a long run-in that began more than 10 years ago, when the developer Amstrup & Baggesen unveiled plans to build a grocery store at the roundabout in Skallebølle.

Skallebølle Residents' Association was happy with the new store, which came after they had lost the local school and felt beaten back in terms of settlement. But with Netto, optimism has returned.

Battle between supermarket Brugsen and discounter Netto

They were less happy in Dagli'Brugsen in Vissenbjerg, which had to close on 30 November last year. According to Søndersø Brugsforening, which owned the store, it had been running with a monthly deficit of a six-figure amount all year.

High energy prices, an upcoming major investment in a new refrigeration and freezing system costing more than three million DKK and the new discount competitor in Skallebølle dealt the store the final death blow.

Merchant Morten Andersen (pictured above), Spar in Vissenbjerg, drew the longest straw in the battle with Dagli'Brugsen for the local customers. He could feel that customers were lured to the new Netto store in Skallebølle. But after a while, he found that "things have actually fallen back to the old level".

SuperBrugsen in Tommerup Stationsby also felt the customers' interest in the newly opened Netto in the beginning. But here, too, the assessment is that the market has regained its balance.

Strong Netto profile

The 41-year-old Jon Steen Olsen has, among other things, experience several Netto stores in Odense and has noticed a clear difference when meeting customers in Skallebølle.

`Here we are local and know each other. It is really very important that we meet customers with kindness and attention`, says Jon Steen Olsen, who on an operational level will be in charge of weekdays with basket customers and weekends with customer carts.

`There is a very large fluctuation in sales over the week. But regardless of customer pressure, it is always our goal to give customers a good shopping experience`, says Jon Steen Olsen.

He was originally educated in Dagrofa Foodservice and later came to Bilka, before at the age of 24 began his career in Netto and back in 2009 was given responsibility for Netto in Bogense, which he had helped build up the year before. One of his first tasks at that time was to create order and a nicer store, which has since been the benchmark for the stores he has been responsible for.

`We only succeed through clear communication and good planning`, says Jon Steen Olsen, who has four children aged 12 to 22 and still has to pick up children from school. With good planning and skilled employees, this is not a problem for the store manager.

The regional manager praises his store manager for being present, he has a good overview and ensures a healthy operation by constantly being at the forefront, so that the store always appears tidy and well-filled.

`And not least, Jon is good at meeting his employees in a good and respectful way, which means that the whole team is strong and ready to cover each other off during peak loads`, says Sebastian Vinther.

More Netto on the way around Odense

The regional manager of the Funen, South Jutland and Southwest Jutland Netto stores is looking forward to the chain strengthening its position around Odense with a brand new Netto in Bellinge west of Odense and the relocation of a Netto in Næsby north of Odense.

"Bellinge is undergoing rapid development with new housing, as it is an attractive suburb of Odense. In addition to the locals, with the new store we will also be able to attract commuter traffic between Odense and Assens," says Sebastian Vinther.

So far, SuperBrugsen and 365discount have only been on the market in Bellinge.

According to the regional manager, the new location in Næsby also provides traffic advantages, as it will be easier to get drivers commuting between Odense and Bogense to swing into the parking lot.

`It is interesting to see an old and significant highway being revived. Before the motorway came in 1967, there were inns, grocery stores and service stations along the A1 highway, which was a main thoroughfare through Denmark,` says Mayor Søren Steen Andersen of Assens Municipality.

He is pleased that the main road, which runs parallel to the E20, which it crosses in several places across West Funen, has once again come into its own:

`Skallebølleslagteren and Netto in the same village live well from this traffic. Likewise in Grønnemose, where one company and service facility after another is popping up these years. The old Funen Summerland has reopened right between Fjelsted Forest Hotel & Conference and Vissenbjerg Storkro.


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