Case | HBS Case Collection | August 2008 (Revised March 2010)

Finland's S Group: Competing with a Cooperative Approach to Retail

by Ramon Casadesus-Masanell, Tarun Khanna, Samuli Skurnik and Jordan Mitchell

Abstract

The case looks at the two dominant Finnish retailers: S Group and Kesko. S Group is a customer-owned cooperative, which has a unique holding structure whereby 1.7 million residents (or 70 percent of Finnish households) own 22 regional cooperatives. In turn, the regional cooperatives own SOK, a centralized company that provides services to the regional cooperatives. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, S Group lagged far behind the market leader, Kesko. However, since 2005, S Group has held the leadership position; in 2007, it had captured 41 percent market while Kesko's was 33.9 percent. Kesko Plc is publicly traded and pursues a model whereby retailer entrepreneurs use their personal funds to invest in stores and operate them completely. The case requires that students consider sources of competitive advantage that arise from the companies' markedly different business models.

Keywords: Business Model; Cooperative Ownership; Public Ownership; Competitive Advantage; Retail Industry; Finland;

Citation:

Casadesus-Masanell, Ramon, Tarun Khanna, Samuli Skurnik, and Jordan Mitchell. "Finland's S Group: Competing with a Cooperative Approach to Retail." Harvard Business School Case 709-409, August 2008. (Revised March 2010.)