The History of Biltema

The History of Biltema

How Biltema started

The year is 1963. The Beatles release their first album and John F. Kennedy is the President of the United States. But it is also the year that Sten-Åke Lindholm asks himself a question, which also became the starting point for Biltema’s evolution into a store for the whole family.

“Why are automotive spare parts and accessories so expensive?”

Sten-Åke saw that automobile suppliers often had a relatively low profit margin on the cars they sold so that customers would buy the cars. The low profit margin was then compensated by having much higher margins on spare parts, accessories, and servicing.

When Sten-Åke studied the pricing of other products, he discovered that there were often numerous middlemen between manufacturers and the end-customer. Many companies spent a great deal of money on building up the brand in order to give their products a sense of exclusivity, something that did not actually have anything to do with the quality of the products. Not many brand holders owned their own factories, but rather purchased their products from subcontractors on the global market.

The idea of Biltema was born – “Most things a car owner needs for their car”

Based on his studies and observations, Sten Åke concluded that if he eliminated the middleman and purchased directly from the manufacturers, he could significantly reduce prices on the market. Sten-Åke started adding the Biltema name to the products, which would allow for prices to be reduced further while avoiding trademark disputes with various general agents. This is where the original business idea “To offer good quality products at a good price" was born. The primary target group for Biltema at this early stage was car owners, and Biltema’s range would include most things car owner needs for their car.

The start of Biltema

The year is still 1963, and the company Biltema is founded under the name ‘BIL-TEMA’. The business at this time consisted of mail order sales of automotive parts and accessories. Biltema’s popular slogan “Why pay more?” was already coined in the very first catalogue. At that time, we could not boast modern stores and large warehouses; Sten-Åke and Biltema’s work was initially handled from a small basement on Vistvägen in Linköping.

Strategic purchasing contacts

The policy and business concept of buying products directly from manufacturers meant that Biltema soon identified production locations. By the end of the 1970s, the company had started to build up strategic purchasing contacts throughout the world, and we now have purchasing offices in many countries in Europe and Asia.

1976 – new premises and turnover in the millions

By 1976, sales had risen to SEK 25 million and Biltema moved to its own new premises in the Torvinge district of Linköping. The new premises measured 6,000 square metres and housed the mail order operations, a central warehouse, and a store of almost 250 square metres. A store that in the early 80s was expanded to about 2,700 square metres.

1983 – Expansion begins

In 1983, it was time to expand beyond Linköping’s borders, and thus also beyond Swedish borders. 1983 was the year when Biltema’s second store opened, this time in Norway. This was followed two years later, in 1985, by the opening of Finland’s first Biltema store. The establishment of stores in Denmark took a few more years, and we opened the doors to the first store in the country in 2002.


The Biltema catalogue

Biltema’s well-known catalogue has, to date, been printed and distributed twice a year to approximately 14 million households in the Nordic region. Over the years, the Biltema catalogue has become immensely popular, and, for a long time, it was the means by which most customers found their products. However, as digital marketing became more ubiquitous, the decision was made in 2022 to cease distribution of the printed catalogue, in favour of increased digital marketing.

Sustainability at Biltema

Biltema today

Today, Biltema has around 160 department stores across four Nordic countries, and we are constantly growing and developing our range, with the motto and slogan “Higher quality – at a low price”. In addition to continuing to be a family-owned company, Biltema has today also become a store for the whole family.

Read more about our business areas here.

From mail order to store chain – the journey in years

  • 1963: Mail order sales from Linköping.
  • 1976: The first store opens in Linköping.
  • 1980: The store in Linköping gets a new retail space of 2,700 sqm.
  • 1983: The first store opens in Norway.
  • 1985: The first store opens in Finland. 
  • The ’90s: The product range is expanded. 
  • ’00s: The organisation evolves.
  • 2000: Biltema opens stores that are run as franchises.
  • 2002: The first store opens in Denmark. (Næstved) 
  • 2003: The mail order business is discontinued.
  • 2007: Inauguration of our new large central warehouse in Halmstad, with a storage capacity for approximately 110,000 EUR-pallets.
  • 2012: New head office in Helsingborg. 
  • 2013: The organisation continues to grow; more than 100 stores.  
  • 2013-2022: 161 stores in the Nordic region.
  • 2022: The Biltema catalogue stops being printed, in favour of increased digital marketing.
  • 2023: The establishment of new stores continues.
  • 2023: Biltema celebrates 60 years of low prices.