THERE HAVE BEEN RIVETING CHANGES IN THE MARKET SINCE PALMER & CO WAS ESTABLISHED 20 YEARS AGO. TODAY THE COMPANY HAS CHANGED ITS NAME TO PALMER GROUP. BUT OUR MOTTO IS UNCHANGED: PROUD MERCHANTS OF WINE, SPIRITS AND BEER.
by CEO Lars-Reidar Huth
The wine importer company, Palmer & Co. – today Palmer Group – was founded on February 17, 1997. Why the name Palmer? The company founders were Ida Palmer and Anders Christiansen, both Francophiles with a second home in in Beaune, Bourgogne. Gradually, they started importing French wine for their wine friends in Norway. Ida quickly realized that the name Palmer sounded good in wine circles and, early on, the pair got the opportunity to import the prestigious wine Ch Palmer Alter Ego. Palmer & Co has from the very beginning – and still has – Champagne Palmer as part of its assortment. Champagne Palmer & Co was established in 1847 and is celebrating its 170th anniversary this year.
20 eventful years
A lot has happened to the Norwegian alcohol market over the last 20 years. A few keywords are; availability, taxes on alcohol, poisonous, bootleg liquor illegally smuggled into Norway, border trade and tax-free stores at Gardermoen Airport.
In 1997 Norway had a little more than 100 Vinmonopol stores. Today the number has increased to 326. And in another couple of years Norway will have as many as neighboring Sweden with its 400 Systembolag. The Swedish Systembolag has a turnover that is double the size as its Norwegian counterpart. That stands to reason since there are twice as many Swedes as there are Norwegians.
At the end of the 90-ies we were waiting in long lines at Norway´s few Vinmonopol stores, which made many Norwegians want wine to be sold in grocery stores. This became a challenge for the then Minister of Social Affairs, Hill-Marta Solberg. In 1998 she decided to open 50 new Vinmonopol stores by 2002. Sales of wine increased considerably at this time while the market for bootleg liquor and moonshine declined – and not to forget – in 2002, 20 Norwegians lost their lives to poisonous, bootleg liquor.
The same year taxes on alcohol were reduced and also the Vinmonopol outlets turned their stores into self-service. In 2002 and 2003 another 21 stores were added. But, in spite of all this, the border trade kept growing. This trade was helped along by Systembolaget´s decision to stay open on Saturdays.
Norway´s Bondevik-government decided in 2005 to allow tax-free stores at arrival points to Norway. This started a sales frenzy, especially at Gardermoen Airport. And when prime minster Erna Solberg on July 1, 2014 increased tax-free quotas for travelers dropping tobacco, the wine quota increased from four to six bottles.
The last expansion of the tax-free store at Gardermoen opened in 2016 and is today Norway´s biggest outlet for wine and liquor – five times bigger than the Vinmonopol´s largest store at Oslo´s CC-Vest.
In 2012 Systembolaget opened its second store in downtown Strømstad. This is a store with only 250 selections, that is only 10% of the selection at CC-Vest. In spite of that, the second store in Strømstad has a turnover four times that of our biggest wine & liquor outlet at CC-Vest.