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Is the influx of foreign discount chains in Switzerland good for consumers?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Is the influx of foreign discount chains in Switzerland good for consumers?
More Swiss consumers are attracted to foreign discount chains. Photo: Pixabay

Discount chains from abroad are opening stores in Switzerland. Who and where are they, and what does it mean for local consumers and retailers?


If you have been living in Switzerland long enough, you may remember the early 2000s, when Aldi tried to establish itself in the country.

At the time, a number of municipalities refused to grant permits to the German discounter, on the grounds that — in the words of officials in one Vaud town — “the cheap stuff they sell will attract the wrong kind of people to the community.”

Times have changed since then, and Aldi has been present in Switzerland for almost two decades now — along with other foreign discounters like Lidl, Otto, Maxi Bazar, and Radikal Liquidations.

READ ALSO: Aldi versus Lidl: Which retailer is cheaper in Switzerland? 

This change in attitude was driven by an increasing demand for cheaper products than those sold in Swiss supermarkets, though for a long time there has been a clear demographic division among consumers, with immigrants preferring to shop at Aldi and Lidl, while the Swiss generally favoured Coop and Migros.

What is the situation now?

With wages not keeping up with inflation, and therefore resulting in lower purchasing people, more people in Switzerland are turning to cheaper stores.

Foreign discounters, which previously didn’t see Switzerland as a fertile market for low-cost products, are now moving into the country.

For instance, French chain Stokomani has just opened its first Swiss shop at the Antzère shopping center, in the town of Conthey in Valais.

This retailer resells end-of-series fashion items, perfumes, decoration, and toys from various wholesalers at low prices.

And the Dutch discount supermarket Action is getting ready to open stores throughout Switzerland as well.

“International discounters are taking advantage of an opportunity now offered to them in Switzerland," according to retail specialist Nordal Cavadini.


What can you expect from these discount chains?

The main benefit of these chains: cheaper products than in mainstream stores.

"Due to constant price hikes, consumers are increasingly turning to low-cost products,” Cavadini pointed out. “Today, consumers no longer need to be convinced that what is cheaper can also be of good quality.”

Even Mario Irminger, head of Migros, concedes that Swiss households are increasingly turning to cheaper products.

“Where can you save money most easily? On low-cost items,” he said in an interview with Blick newspaper.

However, Switzerland’s largest retailer, is not taking this ‘invasion’ by foreign discounters sitting down.

Migros is trying to ‘counterattack’ by expanding its range of low-cost products, "so that customers of all social classes can stock up here according to their income, ”Irminger pointed out.


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