While the coronavirus pandemic has brought disruption and downturn to swathes of the Estonian economy, particularly the transport, tourist and hospitality sectors, one area which seems to have bucked the trend so far is the home sauna business.
Necessarily having to stay at home during the pandemic may well be a factor in a large surge in sales for at least two manufacturers – stove maker HUUM and sauna maker Iglucraft, the latter the company which has most famously counted David Beckham among its recent clients, writes British-Estonian entrepreneur Adam Rang, in a piece which originally appeared on his blog.
Indeed, Iglucraft say they had 60 percent of 2019's sales volume in March alone – the month the pandemic really started to bite in Europe. These sales have helped to shore up the house-construction side of the company's business, which have reportedly taken a hit during the pandemic.
Similarly, Estonian firm HUUM saw a 68-percent rise in sales for the first four months of 2020, compared with last year. When taking March alone, this figure jumps to 221 percent, the company says, adding that some stock shortages may be experienced.
The company says the bulk of this consists of exports to Europe and the U.K., with wood burning stoves seeing a surge as well as electric ones, the latter the company's top-seller and an area in which it has just launched two new models, which include WiFi capabilities for mobile app control.
"Until recently, even Estonians would market their saunas to international visitors as 'Finnish saunas', but now more people around the world are discovering Estonia's own unique sauna heritage and we are developing a good reputation for our sauna design and technology," said Anni Oviir, who exports HUUM sauna stoves.
The development naturally also has to be set alongside a decline in "sauna tourism", where Estonia would be a significant destination.
"As people spend more time at home and more time thinking about their health, many want to invest in home saunas right now and in places around the world where this was previously just considered a luxury spa experience. This is merely an acceleration of a long term trend though, and there has been years of development here in Estonia to meet that demand, including new types of heaters and stoves that are designed for apartments where space is tighter and power input is lower," Oviir added.
"We now have an opportunity to make Estonia as famous for its expertise in saunas as it already is for things like digital services or education. We even think we can make "leil" the first Estonian word to enter common usage globally, since there is currently no English word for the steam that is generated by pouring water onto hot rocks inside a sauna."
British entrepreneur Chris Davies recently ordered a wood-burning HUUM sauna stove online, he says.
"During the coronavirus crisis, we have a bit more time on our hands, and preserving our health, both mentally and physically, is more important than ever. So we decided to start building our own sauna," Davies said.
The original piece is on the Estonian Saunas page here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte