I visited Hagkaup, an Icelandic grocery chain and retailer known as the "Walmart of Iceland."
I was surprised to see a box of free fruit for children, which I've never seen in US grocery stores.
Hagkaup also featured its own candy store and a large craft section with alpaca yarn.
Hagkaup (pronounced HOW-kup), an Icelandic retailer with a wide-ranging selection of food, housewares, clothes, cosmetics, crafts, toys, and other items, is often compared to Walmart because it has a little bit of everything at low prices.
On a recent trip to Iceland, I visited Hagkaup for the first time. While there were similarities with Walmart and other stores I've shopped at in the US, it also had features I've never seen in an American store before.
Here are five things that surprised me about Hagkaup as an American shopper.
There are seven Hagkaup stores in Iceland. I visited one in Kópavogur, about 5 miles outside the capital city of Reykjavík.
The store was located inside the Smáralind shopping center in Kópavogur.
Hagkaup's entrance featured a one-way gate, which I haven't encountered in US stores.
Once I followed the orange arrows through the gate, the only way I could exit was through the checkout counters.
I encountered similar one-way gates at grocery stores in Scotland, but I haven't seen them in US shops.
The selection of Icelandic salmon and lox was larger than I've seen in American grocery aisles.
In 2020, Iceland was the fourth-largest producer of salmon in Europe at 34,000 tons, according to Statistics Iceland. The expansive section of fresh and smoked Arctic salmon felt unique to Iceland, since most salmon I see at stores like Trader Joe's in the US comes from Alaska.
Hagkaup offered a box of free fruit for kids to enjoy, a common feature of Nordic supermarkets.
I loved how family-friendly the offering was for busy parents running errands.
I haven't encountered a similar stand in American grocery stores. Some select locations of chain supermarkets — such as some ShopRite stores in New Jersey and New York, ABC7 reported in 2018 — have rolled them out in the past, but I have never seen them during my own shopping trips.
I didn't expect Hagkaup to have an extensive arts-and-crafts section.
In my experience living in the US, craft supplies are mostly sold in specialty stores like Michaels or Joann Fabrics. I was surprised to find shelves of colorful alpaca yarn, beads, ribbon, drawing tools, and other items.
I couldn't believe that Hagkaup contained a full candy store within a store.
At Nammiland, located in the back corner of Hagkaup, customers could take a paper bag and scoop out gummies, chocolates, sour belts, and other candies from giant bins. With its size and variety of options, it easily could have been its own establishment.
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