10 Fastest Growing Retail Companies 2019

Let’s do good, Together: Kesko


Our vision is to be the preferred choice of customers and the quality leader in the European trading sector.

Kesko is a Finnish trading sector pioneer. The firm operates in the grocery trade, the building, and technical trade and the car trade. Its divisions and chains act in close cooperation with retailer entrepreneurs and other partners.

The firm’s chain operations comprise some 1,800 stores in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, and Poland. Combining online sales and digital services with its extensive store site network, Kesko enables a seamless customer experience in all channels.

Together, Kesko and K-retailers form K Group, whose sales (pro forma) totaled approximately €13 billion in 2018. K Group is the biggest trading sector operator in Finland and one of the biggest Northern Europe. Kesko employs some 41,000 people.

Kesko’s strategic business areas are grocery trade, building and technical trade, and car trade. They are areas where Kesko has strong expertise and market positions and they offer good potential for profitable growth in the long term.

Corporate responsibility is a strategic choice for K Group and integrated into its daily activities. Responsible purchasing, product safety, the environment, and good corporate governance are key focus areas for its corporate responsibility work.

Customer and quality – in everything we do

Kesko was formed when four regional wholesaling companies that had been founded by retailers - Savo-KarjalanTukkuliike, Keski-SuomenTukkukauppaOy, KauppiaittenOy, and MaakauppiaittenOy - were merged in October 1940.

Establishment of Kesko

The new Kesko company started operating at the beginning of 1941. The need to purchase goods for the shareholder-retailers and to support their business operations and start cooperation among them resulted in the forming of the K-retailer group. The active building of the K-store network was started and joint advertising was launched. The K-emblem was introduced as the new group's symbol.

Period of growth

The rationing of goods and regulation of imports retarded the growth of trade during the first years of the 1950s. Towards the end of the 1950s, when restrictions were removed, the building of specialty store networks was started to complement the general stores. Kesko played a significant role in developing the store formats. At first, the main emphasis was on establishing a hardware store network and a warehousing system for the hardware products offered by Kesko. In addition, big efforts were made to develop trade in agricultural supplies and machinery.

A new course

The retail trade in foodstuffs underwent great changes during the 1960s. As Finnish people became less self-reliant in terms of their daily grocery needs, fresh foods were added to stores' selections, and the trend was for general stores to evolve into food stores.

Information technology spurs growth

In the 1970s Kesko continued to grow steadily, in the foodstuffs trade in particular. A new store format - the supermarket - was successfully launched. Further steps were taken to strengthen the specialty store network. The responsibility for developing store formats was transferred to the commercial divisions. Kesko and the K-retailers entered the retail trade in the fields of home and specialty goods and hardware products. The Kesport chain was established. The first Citymarket hypermarket was opened in Lahti in 1971.

New investments and new owners

The 1980s represented a period of heavy investment for Kesko. Building projects included new business premises for the branch offices in Turku and Oulu, a new central warehouse and several large retail stores. The share capital was increased to finance these investments. The number of shareholders grew by 20,000.

Chain operations start

Kesko was changed significantly by the establishment of new grocery store formats and the transfer to chain operations. Centralization continued. The number of district units dropped to five, and they mainly engaged in the grocery trade. The forming of chain units and profit groups, and the incorporation of operations created a more customer-oriented, profit-targeted operating model.

A time for internationalization

Entry into the Swedish and Baltic markets that had started in the mid-1990s gained momentum at the turn of the millennium. Major spearheads in the internationalization process were the retailing of hardware and builders' supplies and the K-rauta format. Kesko also expanded its agricultural business to all Baltic countries, becoming a market leader in the area in a very short time.

CEO Corner

Mikko Helander, President, and CEO:

“Our mission is to create welfare responsibly - for all our stakeholders and for all society.”