Citycon CEO Campaigns for Retailer Expansion to Nordic Countries

Citycon CEO Marcel Kokkeel is on a mission. The leader of the Nordic- and Baltic-focused urban grocery-anchored shopping center owner wants to attract more global retailers to the region.
marcel_kokkeel

Citycon CEO Marcel Kokkeel is on a mission. The leader of the Nordic- and Baltic-focused urban grocery-anchored shopping center owner wants to attract more global retailers to the region. “I think that the Nordic customer deserves more and better of them,” he observed while visiting the States for the NASDAQ opening bell ceremony.

Kokkeel thinks the Nordic region offers a prime target for big-name retailers, given its economic and demographic strength, combined with an almost non-existent presence among non-local store brands. The countries grew throughout the recession, while the Euro zone economy as a whole shrank last year and is expected to remain negative this year, he pointed out. The region’s population likewise continues to grow in the face of predictions for a shrinking European populace. Now numbering 25 million people overall, the Nordic population features the fastest-growing cities in Europe: Stockholm ranks first with 23.8 percent growth expected by 2025, followed by Oslo with 22.9, Helsinki with 14.5 and Copenhagen with 9.6. Urbanization started later in those countries and will continue for the next several decades, Kokkeel noted. Yet retail penetration is about 45 percent lower than that in the rest of Europe, with Sweden ranking 10th and other Nordic countries even lower.

Galleria Esplanad, Helsinki

Galleria Esplanad, Helsinki

Citycon’s shopping centers cater to the urban shopper in that they are enclosed, with access to public transportation, and feature grocery stores and other Main Street types of retail. Kokkeel envisions their format being suitable for the likes of Trader Joe’s, Forever 21, Gap, Hollister and TJ Maxx (H&M, based in Sweden, is already present in Nordic shopping centers). But Kokkeel is eager to see them not just in Citycon’s 38 shopping centers, which total just under 1 million square meters, but in retail outlets across the region.

Retailers have been slow to enter the region, he believes, because they focus on individual countries rather than the region as a whole. But given the countries’ proximity to each other, he said, basing his theory on his own background working for a number of retailers, one central office could direct expansion across all of the countries.