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European Journal

Sweden: The Last of the Lanthandel

Going shopping in Sweden’s far-flung rural areas can mean hours on the road. The Lanthandel - little general stores - have traditionally met country-dwellers’ basic needs. But over the past decade, a good third of these small businesses have closed up shop. Now EU subsidies are planned to help counter this trend.

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The Lanthandel, or general store, is most often the center of community life, in many ways taking the place of the village pub. It sells fresh produce, household goods and tools. It serves as a post office and even a pharmacy. But as young people migrate to the cities in search of jobs, their clienteles are dwindling. EU subsidies and fiber optic cables, however, are bringing many of these little shops into the modern age. Now, customers can even do their banking or submit building applications at the Lanthandel.