I have to confess that I’ve never really thought retail business to be that interesting, even though I have read books with interest about Walmart, Starbucks and McDonalds. Heikki Peltola’s Palveluloiste-book opened my eyes to finnish retail landscape in a way that I did not think was possible. Suddenly I realized how remarkable companies many of the retail chains were and what kind of transformations have happened and are about to happen also in Finland.
Book was quick and easy read, laying out clearly details about each chain – pressing the importance of financial figures in years 1995-2005 in a way that has not been seen in everyday financial writing in Finland. And numbers told very interesting stories that give context to all the stories about local politics in retail landscape. I was amazed to see in black and white profit margins that from the outset ( and from very capital based view to Finland ) even very modest chains were able to produce. Return on invest percentages in the range of 10 to 20 percent made it clear why even today entrepreneurs were doing their best to get into business – and how exceptional some entries like Erätukku were to the marketplace. Book also gave numbers to phenomenas that have shaped retail industry in Finland: S-group’s rise and importance in retail landscape along with Kesko, supersized shopping centers like Itäkeskus ( over 20 million annual visitors ) and that Stockmann’s department store in the center of Helsinki is largest (measured in sales ) single store in Finland, including also being largest seller of food in Finland.
Though Palveluloiste is not by any means the best business book I have ever read, it fulfilled it goal amazingly well and I read it through in two sittings. Author Heikki Peltola has done remarkable job in collecting all the information into one book and process it into stories that both explain what has happened in retail industry and at the same time are entertaining to read. Though I doubt I will not see myself participating in retail business in anytime soon, this book helped me to understand better forces and currents that have shaped and are shaping the business environment in Finland and around Europe. Definitely great read, but available only in finnish.