(Bloomberg Markets) -- This winter, as the war in Ukraine rages and Russia curbs gas shipments, many Europeans are bracing for higher electricity prices and even power cuts or blackouts. That’s boosted demand for alternative heating sources, including the oldest: wood.
Sweden’s Gabriel Kakelugnar AB provides a solution that’s existed for generations. As of November there was already a six-month waiting list for the company’s traditional tiled stoves, which can keep a room warm for 24 hours. They come at a steep price—the standard version costs about 86,000 Swedish kronor ($8,200) locally, but varies in other markets. That basic version contains more than 80 individual tiles, while other models include tiles that are painstakingly hand painted by specialists. The manufacturing process takes about three weeks from start to finish.
As many as 40% of the company’s stoves are exported, primarily to Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Norway, Germany, Finland, and Switzerland, as well as to the UK and the US. But Jesper Svensson, an entrepreneur who grew up nearby and bought the factory in 2020, says he recently received an inquiry from Jordan. The company aims to sell 480 of the stoves this year, up from 436 last year and 350 in a more typical year.
“The big push has been the energy crisis, as well as the war worries and the idea of self-sufficiency if the power goes out, for example,” says Svensson, 42.Entering the company’s factory in Timmernabben, on the coast of Smaland, is like stepping back in time. Machines with analogue meters and gauges hum and buzz, and the smell of clay fills the hot room. One basement wall covered in graffiti tells of the fun had at a summer party in the 1980s.
The company is facing soaring costs for everything from electricity and packaging to freight and raw materials. It raised prices 7% at the beginning of the year, and again in August.
Like his customers, Svensson is pondering how to become more self sufficient. He points past some apple and cherry trees to a lawn on which he plans to install solar energy panels. Those, he says, will initially cover about 10% of the factory’s demand, “but there’s the potential for much more around here.”
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