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Sweden's Clas Ohlson says sales reflect people staying more at home

By Anna Ringstrom
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A box of single-use gloves from Swedish DIY and homewares retailer Clas Ohlson

By Anna Ringstrom

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedish DIY and homewares retailer Clas Ohlson <CLASb.ST> said on Wednesday that although the COVID-19 pandemic had hit sales in March, demand had grown for products such as food jars and headsets as people spent more time at home.

The century-old budget retailer, which does the bulk of its business in Sweden and Norway, said sales from comparable outlets were down 11% in March from a year earlier, measured in local currencies.

Its shares were down 5.7% at 78.95 Swedish crowns by 1244 GMT, having bounced in recent days from an 11-year low of 60.8 crowns set on March 23.

But Chief Executive Lotta Lyra told Reuters the company, which sells a range of products from cleaning supplies to home electronics, saw clear evidence of people working from home, cooking and having the children around more than usual.

"It's pretty clear the home is gaining in importance," she said in an interview. "We see a broad and increasing demand for things related to the fact we spend more time at home."

Sales grew of arts and crafts kit such as paint and paper sheets, as well as of small kitchen machines such as blenders and food storage containers, she said.

Demand for headsets increased, and - as winter in the Nordics started drawing to a close - so did that for gardening gear from gloves and pruning shears to robotic lawn mowers.

"It mirrors very clearly the everyday life that we are living right now," Lyra said.

Norway's measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus includes school closures, certain travel bans and a requirement to work from home if possible. Sweden has taken a slightly softer approach, advising people to avoid travel and if possible to work at home, and elderly people not to visit stores.

Clas has in the past year closed nearly all its stores in Britain and Germany and is in the process of moving e-commerce in the two countries to the Amazon <AMZN.O> platform. Taking into account the store closures, and currency translation effects, March sales were down 17%.

(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by David Holmes)