When you think relocation, Iceland probably isn’t the first destination you might think of. Sitting on the edge of Europe and North America, placed where the tectonic plates of Europe and America meet. The country is becoming alive to the changing political circumstances of both regions and trying to make the most of opportunities that arise. Recovery from the 2008 financial crash has taken time but a low taxation, high output per citizen (ranked 6th in the world) society is seeing major growth in tourism and other associated industries.
Taking time out of a family break to Reykjavik, I recently visited the offices of Crown’s Household Goods and Fine Art partner Pokkun & Flutningar ehf (maybe ProPack is easier to pronounce!) To meet the team and understand some of the challenges they face in a country where the entire population is smaller than medium sized town or city across Europe.
Owner Vidar Petursson, picked me up from the city center and took me to their very well-organized premises on the outskirts of Reykjavik. It must have been a coincidence to see a Crown carton in the warehouse where crating of a shipment had recently taken place. Remarking on how technology is helping to change the business culture of Iceland, Vidar commented “once upon a time, Iceland was purely a fishing and farming nation. In the past, only about 30% of a fish was consumed – now we’ve developed machinery that ensures almost 100% of a fish is. At the same time, we’ve become a global leader in the development of prosthetic limbs, used in surgery around the world.”
In discussions with the ProPack team over coffee, bread and a local fish pate, it’s evident that Vidar and his long serving team are a hardy, dedicated bunch. “I take great pride in having employees that stay with me” said Vidar, adding “Olafur Haukur has been with me for 40 years. – we knew each other from our schooldays!”.” Our discussions took us onto Vidar’s key markets which are mostly the European nations. “Most of our business comes from Europe so, of course, we are very interested to see what happens after Brexit takes place. We have business to and from the UK too so we hope that country’s exit from Europe won’t create additional problems.”
ProPack’s market isn’t huge in volume. The greater Reykjavik area holds almost 75% of the entire country population, (a growing problem as the rest of the country is experiencing de-population as youngsters, in particular, head to the capital). As a consequence, ProPack have to make sure every move goes well and they have developed a good reputation for high standards of service delivery. “Make one mistake here and news travels fast” remarked Hildur Waltersdottir, a ProPack employee for 15 years, “…we have to treat everyone with cotton wool!” Costs reflect the high standard of living “I think that is something of a surprise to some people who come here, but we are seeing some immigration from people who have come a long way to settle here and enjoy our way of life.”
The ProPack team has also developed some specialization in the Fine Art market too. “There are some new Icelandic artists that are gaining interest around the world and, of course, we get periodic Exhibitions coming to Reykjavik” commented Vidar. “We’ve been able to develop the right skills to service that market too”.
Vidar and the team expressed great interest in how Crown, Propack and other partners develop routes in and out of Iceland for the future. Iceland is moving (literally as the tectonic plates pull apart and a new earth crust is formed) and there is opportunity to work more with each other in the future while adapting to new technologies. “We’d be interested to learn more about your ePacking” commented Vidar.
As a member of the European Economic Area without being an EU member, maybe Iceland can give some advice to the UK on how to get the best of both worlds in a country that has become one of the wealthiest and most developed in the world. Having said that, they do have to endure low temperatures and minimal daylight for a large part of the year!