Swiss supermarket chain Migros: Decision to sell alcohol – Panorama

Swiss supermarket chain Migros: Decision to sell alcohol – Panorama

Christian Kracht must have installed a bug on purpose. In his latest novel “Eurotrash”, the Swiss writer writes about his mother’s refrigerator and the “seven bottles of Swiss white wine from Migros” contained in it. Most German readers may not notice this, but Kracht twists the reality here: there is no white wine in the offices of Migros, a large, jointly organized Swiss supermarket chain. Also no red wine, no beer and no spirits. The Kracht, who was born in the Canton of Bern, knows this too and probably wanted to upset him a bit.

Recently, however, it looked like a little Krachta lie might come true and become some sort of prophet. Because delegates from the Migros Cooperative Association, forming a kind of parliament in the complex corporate structure of Migros, paved the way for a vote that in the future, beer, wine and schnapps will be available at Migros supermarkets – as in all other Swiss supermarkets.

A surprisingly clear result

The final decision lay with the ten Migros regional cooperatives and their 2.3 million members – a good fourth of Switzerland’s population, after all. The surprising result has been clear for the past few days: the sale ban still applies. All cooperatives have clearly opted out of changing their statutes – so remember: against more sales, against additional customers, possibly also against your own convenience, as most members of the cooperative should not abstain on their own, despite their affiliation with Migros. Nevertheless, most want to stick to the peculiarities.

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So Christian Kracht is not a clairvoyant at all, and Migros Switzerland is an amazing island of responsible entrepreneurship. Because opponents of the sale of alcohol also argued economically and emphasized that Migros benefited from its unique selling point. But the health argument was the most compelling: in the future, there should still be supermarkets where neither young people nor alcoholics would be tempted.

Swiss supermarket chain Migros: There is no alcohol in any Migros branch in Switzerland.Open the detail view

There is no alcohol sale at any Migros branch in Switzerland.

(Photo: Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters)

“People affected by alcohol still have a sheltered space. It was and is important to us, ”said delighted Philipp Hadorn, president of the Swiss Blue Cross, who supports alcohol addicts in their fight against their addiction. Thanks to the cooperative membership number, aid organizations were also able to continue giving Migros vouchers to alcohol addicts, as they know the shops are tobacco and alcohol free. Sucht Schweiz also welcomed the decision: “Migros voters gave a clear signal: alcohol is a psychoactive substance that causes numerous social problems.”

2.3 million Migros shop owners: they are therefore worthy heirs of the legendary Migros founder Gottlieb Duttweiler, who founded the company in 1925 and is still venerated in Switzerland as a kind of national hero. The largely non-alcoholic offering in the wards dates back to Duttweiler’s time – partly because he thought it was morally right not to encourage alcoholism, but partly because he couldn’t get a beer at all. Due to the low prices, large breweries boycotted it. So it came to a point that, from 1928, Migros gave up selling in its branches, which the supermarket may have with alcoholic beverages.

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Profit is not everything

But how does that fit together – an economically liberal Switzerland, where doing business is important and bans are welcome, and a national vote where hundreds of thousands say profit isn’t everything? The answer probably lies in the Swiss mentality. Excess is rather alien to most Swiss, they cultivate restraint and rely on moderation and balance. This also applies to the consumption of alcohol. Even if you often see older Swiss drinking wine at lunchtime, and the late-afternoon “Apéro” tradition suggests that people in Switzerland drink a lot and like to drink, the annual consumption of pure alcohol per capita is a modest 7.6 liters, which is rather low compared to with Europe, the Germans, the French and the Austrians drink much more. With these habits, it can be easier to maintain the largest alcohol-free supermarket in the country. Especially since it’s just a tradition. In conservative Switzerland, which is committed to continuity, people are reluctant to break up with it.

And: The Migros Group, which has since become a mega-corporation, has not remained completely dry anyway. In e-commerce and through subsidiaries such as Denner and Migrolino, he has long earned money by consuming alcohol.

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