Kesko was established in October 1940, when four Finnish regional wholesaling companies joined forces. Since then, Kesko has grown into one of the leading trading sector companies in all of Northern Europe.


Establishment of Kesko

Kesko was established in October 1940 when four Finnish regional wholesaling companies founded by retailers - Savo-Karjalan Tukkuliike, Keski-Suomen Tukkukauppa Oy, Kauppiaitten Oy and Maakauppiaitten Oy - merged their operations. The new company began operations at the beginning of 1941.

The K-retailer group was formed to support the retailers who held shares in Kesko in their business operations and in purchasing goods and as a platform for collaboration between the retailers. Soon began the active building of the K-store network, with joint advertising efforts. The 'K' emblem was introduced as the new group's symbol.

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Period of growth

The post-war rationing of goods and regulation of imports held back growth in the first years of the 1950s. Towards the end of the decade, when restrictions were removed, Kesko began building networks for speciality stores to complement its general stores. Kesko played a significant role in developing  store formats in Finland. Initially 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 the trade of agricultural supplies and machinery.


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A new course

In the 1960s, food retailing in Finland saw major changes. As people became less self-reliant in their daily grocery needs, fresh foods were added to store selections, and general stores began to evolve more into grocery stores.

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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 speciality 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 speciality goods and hardware products. The Kesport chain was established. The first Citymarket hypermarket was opened in Lahti in 1971.

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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.

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Chain operations start

Kesko was changed significantly by the establishment of new grocery store formats and the transfer to chain operations. Centralisation 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.



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A time for internationalisation

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 internationalisation 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.

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Online trade grows

For shopping customers, the internationalisation of retailing has meant a wider choice and ease of purchasing. In the 2000s, the increased use of the Internet and the online retail revolution have made shopping easier and led the trading sector to a new turning point.

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Updated 08.08.2021
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