Estonian alcohol retailers to further expand on Latvian border

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The owners of large alcohol stores in the area of the former Ikla-Ainaži checkpoint on the Estonian-Latvian border are expanding their stores in order to nearly double the locations' sales floors by next spring, reported ERR via the Postimees daily on November 13.

Spurred by a need for additional operating space, the sales floor of the Ainaži SuperAlko store, which belongs to Aldar Eesti, will increase from the current 800 square meters to 2,000 square meters, according to project manager Riin Rätsep.

According to Rätsep, the extension is expected to be completed by the end of February, and its opening will depend on how quickly the permit to use the new structure can be obtained — a process which can take anywhere from two days to two weeks.

"We wish to open the expanded store in March at the latest," Rätsep added.

Meanwhile, the expanded Alko1000 store on the Ikla-Ainaži border is to open late this year.

According to company manager Einar Visnapuu, their sales area will expand from 700 to 1,300 square meters in order to offer better amenities to its customers.

Visnapuu said that this was the only major novelty Alko1000 was planning in its operation in cross-border trade in the near future. "Our company is currently focused on developing a chain of grocery stores in Estonia," he added.

Aldar Eesti stores in Latvia are operated by SIA Aldar Latvia, which, according to the company's homepage, operates three stores on the Estonian-Latvian border; three Alko1000 stores are located in Latvia.

Increased alcohol excise duty driving cross-border trade

As a result of recent excise tax boosts in Estonia, cross-border trade on the border between Estonia and Latvia has increased significantly as of late, with Estonians and sometimes Finns flocking across the border to stock up on cheaper booze.

A November 7 Latvian Radio report had foreigners pointing out the price differences between Latvia, Estonia and Finland. 

"Of course it's cheaper than in Estonia - much cheaper. I bought four bottles of vodka. A single bottle costs €5,60 here but €8,50 in Estonia," a man told Latvian Radio.

"This beer case would cost €25 in Estonia. It costs €9 here. I came here because we'll go hunting on Saturday and we'll need the beer for after. There'll be a sauna too," said another man. 

While a number of Finnish young people - Finns used to stock up in Tallinn - told Latvian Radio this:

"In Finland alcohol costs twice as much as in Estonia, but here we pay only a third of that," a young Finnish woman told Latvian Radio.

Latvia is to increase excise taxes until 2020, but the price increases are expected to be compensated with Estonia's own tax hikes, the Latvian Radio story said. 

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