HS Espoo | The shops disappear one after another from the suburbs, but one remains – Here is a chain that, according to a sociologist, absorbs life from the suburbs

There is only one large kiosk chain in Finland, which is maintained by customers like Markku Matikainen, 78 – Now the “errä” that almost seems like a post office is at a turning point

Man enters the door of Läkkisepänkuja’s R-kiosk in Leppävaara. His hands and feet know what to do: his afternoon newspaper next door, then a couple of steps to the left of the magazine shelf and his hand outstretched towards the German-language magazine. No hesitation, no wandering gaze, no browsing.

Turning and brisk walking at the checkout. A short exchange of words in and out the door. The whole choreography is over in a couple of minutes.

There is plenty of coffee at the R-kiosk during the day. The majority of customers grab a coffee, but some enjoy it on site.­

Such is the deal for many at the R-kiosk: a determined step into the fridge, the familiar fresh grapple and out at the checkout. A pack of tobacco and maybe a lottery at the checkout. Someone is still recharging HSL’s travel card, even though the kiosk has had to pay a recharge fee at the kiosk in March.

Some go to the R-kiosk without doing anything at the R-kiosk at all. So how? Like so, Salla Kalliokoski shows a model: a package can be picked up from Posti’s vending machine without even making eye contact at the checkout, ie without doing business in Ärra. When you step in, you tap the code into the parcel machine, grab the package under your armpit, and walk out.

Salla Kalliokoski picked up the package from Posti’s automatic Räk kiosk at Läkkisepänkuja: It’s nice to have a vending machine. ”­

When Posti has given up its own stores and VR has cut down on ticket sales outlets at stations, and the role of R-kiosks as service centers has been emphasized.

A long list of services available from the kiosk is glued to the door of the pharmacist’s R-kiosk: HSL, VR, Matkahuolto, Onnibus, Posti parcel machine, DHL, Veikkaus, fish management fee …

In many suburbs, the R-kiosk also serves as a café, living room, casino and post office. So is Leppävaara’s Läkkisepänkuja, although on the other side of the track is the Sello shopping center with all its services.

Markku Matikainen visits the R-kiosk a couple of times a week to eat buns, drink coffee and play games.­

Slightly before twelve o’clock on the game machine from the corner of the kiosk there is joyful themed music. Markku Matikainen, 78, eats buns, drinks coffee and plays for a little while. The same routine is repeated a couple of times a week.

“If there was no R-kiosk, I would probably go for coffee at Cello or somewhere else, but I like this. The price of bun coffee is reasonably affordable and the coffee is just fine, ”Matikainen says.

A moment goes by, and coins crackle in the slot of the gaming machine. Matikainen leaves home satisfied with the profit balance of the day: 1.40 euros.

Markku Matikainen presented the amount of EUR 1.40 he won in gambling.­

Matikainen is exactly the kind of customer that R-kiosk wants to invest in. He regularly eats, drinks and spends time at the kiosk. R-kiosk wants more of these customers.

“In the suburbs, the emphasis is on multi-services: packages, eating and gaming. Our suburban kiosks are in a bit of a similar position as rural kiosks. We are known for their customers and services, and spending time plays an important role, ”says R-kiosk’s regional manager Jarkko Kallio.

In some smaller suburbs, the R-kiosk may be the only café, and in downtowns and public transport hubs, a quick snack is most often sought from Ärra, which is enjoyed on the subway, for example.

Merchant Riikka Halttunen fries sausages. Halttunen likes that the job description is diverse.­

Antti Stenbäck stopped at Läkkisepänkuja’s R-kiosk to eat hodari for lunch.­

Thought The R-kiosk as a living room in the suburbs, which handles postal items, gambling, drinking coffee and exchanging news, is kind of beautiful, but it also has its own problems. When the R-kiosk decides to close its kiosk, a large number of services will leave the residents at the same time.

In Suvela, for example, the R-kiosk closed its kiosk in March. In Suvela’s Ärra, there was once the largest agent post office in the Helsinki metropolitan area, and for some residents, morning coffee drunk at the R-kiosk was an important tradition. Now there is only a Post parcel machine located in connection with the K-store.

The agent post office opened at Suvela’s R-kiosk in November 1995. Suvela’s R-kiosk was closed in March. The picture is from 1996.­

Suvela’s R-kiosk was closed down because it ran too heavily on parcel services. That was not enough for the R-kiosk, as the chain wants its kiosks to have its own sales as well.

“Suvela’s R-kiosk did not have a sufficiently diverse sales mix as a basis for profitable business, and it was too much left to gaming and parcel services. Services like the parcel business are very important to us, but we cannot build operations on them alone. We want to be a kiosk with a post office instead of a post office with a kiosk, ”explains Kallio.

Packages and other external services are a double-edged sword for the R-kiosk: on the one hand, the kiosks need them, and on the other hand, the operation of the kiosks must not be too dependent on external services.

Toni Soini picked up a computer screen and other packages she had ordered from the R-kiosk, among other things.­

In many the suburbs are longingly reminiscent of the times when the post office found, among other things, a post office, a bank and specialty shops. Now just a grocery store with a postal parcel machine can be considered a victory, says a sociologist and urban scientist Pasi Mäenpää From the University of Helsinki.

In Espoo, the development has been accelerated by large shopping centers, which have taken customers from suburbs.

“Investing in shopping malls is a strategic choice the city has made. When we commit to the logic of the shopping center, then there will not be a stone-footed and ostrich-type retail space in the same way. ”

The list of services offered by the R-kiosk is long.­

Mäenpää finds the concentration of suburban services on individual actors, such as R-kiosks, problematic.

“Yes, the operation of the R-kiosk resembles a monopoly, and monopolies are always bad for consumers. One might think that a monopoly position like an R-kiosk prevents other types of competition. It is very possible that without their strong position, community stimuli of local residents could develop. ”

Town’s the possibilities for influencing which private actors there are in the suburbs are limited.

“We have the freedom to do business, and the city cannot order an operator to stay in a particular place. The only things the city can influence are the measures that keep the suburb and its surroundings attractive, ”says Espoo’s Director of Urban Planning. Torsti Hokkanen.

Hokkanen and Mäenpää both emphasize the importance of supplementary construction: only in this way can more people be brought to the suburbs who can use the services of the suburbs.

“People are needed to use the services. Residents should think I should be positive about complementary construction. At the same time, new business premises and services that may have worn out can be milled, ”says Mäenpää.

The fifth hundred R-kiosk was opened in late 1970 in Lauttasaari.­

Often, the renewal of buyers is slowed down by their ownership structure: if ownership is fragmented for many small owners who are in different situations with each other, there may not be a common desire to reform the buyer. This has been the case for a long time in Souka, for example.

There is also an unfortunate downside to renovating shopping centers and supplementing suburbs. In renovated or completely new commercial premises, rents are higher, which can be a threshold for smaller operators such as independent restaurants or cafes.

“Of course, there are also risks associated with supplementary construction. Much depends on what the price level is. When a property owner starts to develop their property, it is in the property owner’s interest to price the premises so that they get actors there, ”says Hokkanen.

In the wake of the exceptional year of the coronavirus, the R-kiosk is still looking to the suburbs in addition to the city centers and public transport hubs.

“Corona time opened our eyes. As people move less to work, for example, the importance of local services has been emphasized. It shows us that the number of visitors to the R-kiosks in the suburbs has increased. This can be a more permanent change and we have decided to open new kiosks in the suburbs as well, ”says Kallio of R-kiosk.

Tuija Achrén (left) and Christina Hayta filled out a lottery ticket in honor of Friday.­

Let’s get back still to Läkkisepänkuja’s R-kiosk in Leppävaara. In the afternoon, the kiosk begins to have a Friday night drug, namely a game drug.

Tuija Achrén and Christina Hayta have come in honor of Friday to fill out a lottery ticket. The atmosphere is hilarious and filling in the coupon makes women laugh.

“We don’t figure out how to do this,” Achrén laughs.

“We go to the same school and decided to form a lottery team so we don’t have to go to school anymore,” Hayta announces.

At noon merchant Riikka Halttunen open for viewing on the TV races. A lot of players visit the R-kiosk at the pharmacist’s kiosk.­

At the back of the kiosk, two anonymous men watch the raves in focus and fill out toto coupons.

“Okay already done?”

“Not yet.”

“What are you sure of?”

“I don’t know, it’s hard.”

Games are important to the R-kiosk. Merchant Riikka Halttunen writes a Eurojackpot sample coupon.­

Once the coupon is filled, it is swung at the checkout. The same pattern is repeated over and over again. Once at the checkout, disappointment awaits: the departure has already had time to close, and the coupon doesn’t have time to get inside.

“In the evenings, it’s sometimes quite impossible these days when there are so many package pick-ups and you have to queue with a coupon for so long that the departure closes. But other places are even more impossible! ” one of the men explains.

He’s going to play truth at the R-kiosk because there’s no computer at home. Retirement is time consuming and eating is a hobby for him. There is also a good side to playing at the kiosk that there is a gaming club.

A bit like the living room.

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