Living on Svalbard has advantages and disadvantages. In Longyearbyen, the main town, the 2’400 inhabitants are surrounded by the unique arctic nature and due to the remoteness the communal spirit is much greater than in many other main towns in the world. But this remoteness makes the supply of the inhabitants logistically complex. Svalbardbutikken, the world’s most northern supermarket, has ensured so far the supply of food and all other daily necessities. It is now receiving a major upgrade, not only externally, but also in terms of service and range.
The supermarket will be almost twice as large in terms of floor space and will be able to present its expanded range on two floors. The upper floors will be rented out externally, making Svalbardbutikken basically a shopping centre. The “Nordpolet”, the northernmost liquor store in the world, also got more space and its own entrance. The payment area is also being expanded and plans include six self-checkout kiosks where customers can scan their own purchases and pay electronically. Another brand new service will also be the operation of an ATM so that cash can also be used to make payments. This service became necessary after the only bank on Svalbard closed its doors in December.
The decision to rebuild the supermarket, which has been in existence since 1992, was made at the end of 2019. Coop Svalbard AS, the owner of Svalbardbutikken, decided at that time to rebuild and modernise the entire area. The design of the new buildings was commissioned to the architectural firm Link Arkitektur, which had also developed a zero-carbon emission store for Lidl in Sweden, among other projects. However, the construction, which began in early 2020, kept facing logistical problems due to the Corona pandemic. In particular, deliveries of materials for construction were delayed due to bottlenecks at suppliers. The opening planned for February 2021 therefore had to be postponed. Manager Ronny Strømness stated to the local newspaper Svalbardposten that the biggest renovations should be finished by the end of May and everything should finally be in place from July.
Currently, the work is still in full swing. But part of the interior of the supermarket has already been completed and opened this morning. The area is now brighter and more modern, also clearly arranged. There is enough space for customers, which is particularly important in the current situation. At present, around 40 employees work in the supermarket to continuously fill the new sections in addition to the day-to-day business. This is because the range has been extended and things are due to be delivered accordingly in the next few weeks. Before the new school year the supermarket is to be opened with a big party, at least that is the plan at the moment.
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal