The Retail Sector

An Expert's View about Retail Trade and Electronic Commerce in El Salvador

Posted on: 25 Jan 2012

There are 172 supermarkets located nationwide handling approximately 50% of the retail food market.

THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT POLICY Required Report - public distribution Date: 11/30/2011 GAIN Report Number: ES1111 El Salvador Retail Foods The Retail Sector in El Salvador Approved By: Henry Schmick, Agricultural Counselor Prepared By: Ana Elizabeth de Iglesias, Agricultural Marketing Assistant Report Highlights: El Salvador’s imports of U.S. consumer oriented products reached a record $92 million in 2010. Best prospects for U.S. food products include, breakfast cereals, red meats, poultry meat, dairy products, fresh fruit, processed fruit and vegetables. There are 172 supermarkets located nationwide handling approximately 50% of the retail food market. Post: San Salvador Executive Summary: El Salvador’s imports of U.S. consumer oriented products reached a record $92 million in 2010. Best prospects for U.S. food products include, breakfast cereals, red meats, poultry meat, dairy products, fresh fruit, processed fruit and vegetables. There are 172 supermarkets located nationwide handling approximately 50% of the retail food market. Author Defined: SECTION I. MARKET SUMMARY Country Snapshot El Salvador is located in Central America, shares borders with Guatemala and Honduras. With a total area of 8,008 square miles (20,742 km²), and a population of approximately 6.1 million people, El Salvador has one of the highest population densities in the region. It is the smallest country in Central America. El Salvador is divided into 14 cities called “Departamentos”, the capital city is San Salvador. The U.S. dollar is the official currency. El Salvador enjoys excellent macroeconomic stability, low inflation, and one of the lowest interest rates in Latin America. The U.S. is the most important trading partner and 50% of exports and 40% of imports are with this market. Imports from neighboring countries (Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica) include a large variety of products such as fresh fruit and vegetables, meats, cereals and beans. Other major suppliers that seek increase their exports to El Salvador include Canada, Chile and Panama. The U.S.-Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR entered its 5th year of implementation in El Salvador on March, 1, 2011. CAFTA has created a more active, clear and efficient trade procedure in which consumers are expected to receive all the benefits. Like the rest of Central America, El Salvador offers an open market for U.S. good and services. Tariffs are relatively low, and were reduced further with the implementation of CAFTA-DR. The value-added tax (VAT) rate is 13%. There are few import restrictions in this market. Standards are based on ISO Standards, or Colombian, Mexican, and U.S. standards are used as reference. Labeling and testing are not major issues. El Salvador has a stable economic system, but has not been excluded from the global economic crisis. This economic environment has forced the country to change import strategies, such as local supermarket chains joining forces with other supermarkets in the region to streamline import volumes and get better prices, thus improving their distribution systems. The Government has announced a medium term objective to become a logistic/shipping hub for Central America, and as part of this objective the construction of a deep-water container port in the Golf of Fonseca was completed in 2009. El Salvador's tourism industry has grown dynamically over recent years as the Salvadoran government focuses on developing this sector. Last year tourism accounted for 4.6% of GDP. Source: CIA World Fact book on-line, USDA-FAS, BICO Reports, The Heritage Foundation, and World Bank. Advantages and Challenges Facing U.S. Products in El Salvador Advantages Challenges Major retailers have expanded the number of The shift from essential to high-quality food stores and floor space during the last few years. continuous. A good number of consumers opt The trend is to continue their geographical to trade down to less expensive option of basic expansion. products due to economic difficulties. Information and technology have become strong Market leaders are investing in construction of tools for food marketing. Using product bar codes modern shopping centers in which and scanners at point of sales have been supermarkets and hypermarkets are the anchor fundamental to collaborative planning, forecasting points. Investment also includes state of the art and replenishment aimed at increasing profitability technology, logistics, remodeling and and stock control. improving service areas. Exposure to US media as well as language, High marketing costs (advertising, discounts, cultural, and commercial ties with the United sampling, etc) are necessary to promote new States all contribute to consumers having a market products. positive attitude toward U.S. products The tourism and restaurant sectors are growing Overall, Salvadoran economy remains very and dynamic sector for U.S. exports. susceptible to any world event that may disrupt tourism and investment (i.e. the global economy) The major retailers are developing increasingly Security is a major concern in El Salvador and sophisticated distribution systems, which will the local authorities still need to improve their provide more space and better cold chain security programs. infrastructure for high value frozen and refrigerated imports Supermarket chains have gained greater Category management practices include negotiation power with manufacturers, giving charging slotting fees for products, which are them access to continuous price promotions and absorbed by the supplier. marketing activities. Most of the products stocked on the shelves of The limited cold storage transportation and local retail stores are imported. distribution logistics network is still a limiting factor for the future development of the food sector. II. ROAD MAP FOR MARKET ENTRY A. SUPERMARKETS, SUPERSTORES, HYPERMARKETS, CLUB AND WAREHOUSE OUTLETS Entry Strategy U.S. exporters can approach Salvadoran buyers through a direct importer such as a supermarket chain, a wholesaler/distributor or through a specialized importer. Regardless of strategy, U.S. exporters need a local partner to educate and update them about market consumer trends and development, product registration procedures, and business practices. Wholesalers/distributors and importers play an important role with Salvadoran’s supermarket retailers. Although supermarkets import through consolidators, the bulk of supplies come from local agent or importers. Large supermarket retailers are more likely to import directly from U.S. suppliers. Local importers are a must when selling U.S. food exports to El Salvador’s convenience stores or traditional retail outlets. To appoint a local distributor a U.S. firm has to make sure that the local distributor has a good credit standing (the U.S. Department of Commerce offers a Gold Key service that provides information on local importers), sign a contract with a local lawyer. To introduce a new product to the Salvadoran market, purchasing managers suggest doing a promotion that includes not only product information, but sampling as well. There have been experiences where even well known U.S. food brands have not sold because customers were unfamiliar with the product. The same is true fro frozen products which are just beginning to appeal to the Salvadoran customer and are viewed by some marketing experts as an area to be developed. Attend food trade shows to meet Salvadoran buyers. Marketing managers attend U.S. trade shows regularly and believe that this is the best way to find new products to introduce to this market. Point of Sale (POS) material is very important to promote food products in this market. In addition, advertising through newspapers, radio and television is recommended. Most large importers/distributors are members of the Salvadoran Distributors Association (ADES; This association manages the relationship of its members with local retailers, wholesalers and supermarkets and can provide a good starting contact to enter the market. Distribution Channels Three distribution trends operate in the Salvadoran market: 1. U.S. Exporter => U.S. Broker => Local Distributor => Supermarket => Customer 2. U.S. Exporter => Local Distributor => Supermarket => Customer 3. U.S. Exporter => Supermarket => Customer Supermarket Profile: Supermakets in El Salvador are reticent to release exact sales information. Although a number did provide information, they requested that the information provided be kept confidential. Therefore, sales have been categorized as follows: A: Less than 10 million B: $11 - $25 million C: $26-$75 million D: $76 - $100 million E: $101 - $150 million F: More than $150 million Supermarkets, Owner Group Hypermarkets and Club Current New Estimate Outlets Stores Stores Sales 2210-2011 ($Mil) (Estimate) Calleja, S.A. Selectos 69 5 F De Todo 1/ 2 0 Selectos Market 2/ 13 4 Wal-Mart Stores Hiper Paiz 2 0 F Despensa de Don Juan 32 0 Despensa Familiar 1/ 47 2 Saca Group Hiper Europa 1 0 C Supermercados Europa 4 2 Joint Venture Price Smart 2 0 D U.S./Salvadoran business TOTAL 172 13 Source: Information provided by supermarkets. For those who declined to release sales information, an estimate was made by FAS, San Salvador. 1/ Smaller popular area stores 2/ Medium size stores located in middle lower class areas Retail Sector The market expectations for retailing remain positive as it continues to be a key area of the Salvadoran economy, supported by employment, financial stability and expansion of consumer credit. Hypermarkets/supermarkets, convenience stores, coexist with the traditional corner grocery stores and open-air markets. There are three dominant supermarket chains in El Salvador: Supermercado Selectos, Walmart El Salvador and Europa. Selectos Supermarket is owned by the Calleja Group. This local supermarket chain is made up by 84 stores, with its slogan “Nobody knows you better” (“Nadie te conoce tanto”) keeps a fierce competition among other retailers. In 2008, Calleja, together with nine Central American and Panama companies joined in a strategic alliance funding Supermercados de Centroamerica y Panama - SUCAP (Panama and Central American Supermarkets) SUCAP groups 16 different supermarket chains that combined add up 281 stores in the region, and annual sales raises to more that $2,200 million dollars, said Carlos Lemus, SUCAP Executive Director. SUCAP plans to buy bulk all those product that the companies have in common, as a way to get better prices, benefit the consumer and continue to be competitive. The members of SUCAP are: El Rey, El Machetazo, Super 99 in Panama; Unisuper/La Torre in Guatemala; Perimercados, Automercados in Costa Rica; La Colonia in Nicaragua; La Colonia in Honduras and Super Selectos and Super Market from El Salvador. Wal-Mart Mexico - Central America, is the largest retailer in the region with more than 450 stores. In El Salvador there are 81 stores in three different formats: Despensa de Don Juan, Despensa familiar and Hiper Paiz. In September 2005, Wal-Mart Stores Inc, acquired 33 percent interest in Central American Retail Holding Company (CARHCO) from Dutch retailer Royal Ahold NV. In March 2006, Wal-Mart increased its interest to 51%, and CARHCO was changed to Wal-Mart Central America. . In December 2009, Wal-Mart Mexico announced the acquisition of Wal-Mart’s operations in Central American from Wal-Mart Stores. In early 2010, the transaction was completed and Wal-Mart Mexico became Wal-Mart Mexico - Central America. In 2011, the Wal-Mart chain began implementing the strategy "Every Day Low Cost", seeking deep discounts, especially from suppliers of high rotation products. Everyday Low Prices (EDLP, for the acronym), involves offering consumers the lowest market prices for all products. They also made changes to their store outlay to provide a better shopping experience and lure new customers to their retail outlets. Supermercados Europa, the smallest supermarket chain is also designing strategies to compete with the larger retailers. They procure most of their products directly from suppliers in the U.S. and South America to avoid local importers, assuring lower prices and gaining a competitive edge over large supermarkets. They are planning to open two more stores in 2011. B. CONVENIENCE STORES, GAS MARTS There are three chains of convenience stores: Select Market, Tiger Market, and Starmart-Food Marts, which belong to Shell, Esso (Exxon) and Texaco gas companies. Distribution Channels Distribution is mainly through local distributors, direct imports are minimal. Entry Strategy: New products have to be presented to the purchase manager of each chain and a local distributor must be appointed. Purchasing managers should be invited to the U.S. Fairs and food product exhibitions. Customers need to be familiar with products; therefore, new products have to be introduced with a promotional campaign that includes sampling. Esso convenience stores belong to the Convenience Store Association, thus products can be introduced to Esso (Exxon) through this Association. Gas Mart stores are readjusting their line of products. Besides snack foods, candy, soft drinks, ready-to-heat and ready-to-eat products, dairy products and cereals, they are focusing on fast food sales. The gas marts are potential markets for new products. Sub-Sector Profile: As in the case with supermarkets, sales have been categorized as follows: A: Less than 10 million B: $11 - $25 million C: $26-$75 million D: $76 - $100 million E: $101 - $150 million F: More than $150 million Retail Name and Outlet Ownership No. of Locations Estimated Sales Type Outlets (city/region) ($Mil) Select Market/Shop Shell 49 Nationwide C Tiger Market/On the Run Esso (Exxon) 39 Nationwide C U.S. Starmart, Food Marts Texaco 36 Nationwide B U.S. Puma Puma 14 Nationwide A Source: Information provided by gas distributors. Products also come from Canada, Central America, Colombia, Argentina, Chile Uruguay and Europe. 85% of beer sales are domestic product, 5% from the U.S., 8% from Mexico and the rest from Europe. Most convenience stores located in the metropolitan area have additional services and products such as phone cards, bank tellers, and car wash and tune-up services. Store sizes vary; the largest is approximately 1400 square feet and, the smallest 430 square feet. C. TRADITIONAL MARKETS, “MOM AND POP” SMALL INDEPENDENT GROCERY STORES AND WET MARKETS Traditionally, the public markets have been the main suppliers of fruits, red meat, vegetables, poultry, eggs, pork and fish. There are seven public markets in San Salvador and at least one in each town. Security has become an important issue when determining where to make their food purchases. Supermarkets offer a more secure environment for shopping than public markets. The trend is to purchase in supermarkets, especially for the upper and middle classes. Lately, there has been a substantial increase of supermarket customers from the working class and supermarket are opening in lower income areas. Only a few U.S. foods products are sold in these markets. U.S. fruits are very popular. The majority of food products sold are locally produced or come from other Central American countries. The number of small independent grocery stores in each neighborhood varies from 10 to 100 depending on the size of the neighborhood. These are not designed for the customer to easily see the product and select what they need. Sales are made mostly by product name or category, therefore, it is not recommended to develop a strategy to enter this market. The same applies to the rest of the markets reviewed in this section. III. COMPETITION, CONSUMER-READY PRODUCTS The Central American Countries, Mexico and Chile are the main competitors for the U.S. in this market. El Salvador is a signatory to the Agreement on Central American Tariff and Duties and a member of the Northern Triangle (commercial agreement with Honduras and Guatemala) and the Central American Common Market. In addition, El Salvador has signed a free trade agreement with Mexico, Chile, Dominican Republic, Canada, the U.S., Panama and recently with the European Union (EU). In 2010, the U.S. share of the consumer-ready market reached 21.7%. Guatemala accounts for 26.7%, Mexico 9.3%, Nicaragua 16%, Honduras 6% and Costa Rica 10.4% Powered milk is mostly imported from New Zealand, the Netherlands and Australia. In addition the New Zealand Dairy Board has built a local distribution and packaging facility at a cost of approximately $5.0 million. Fluid milk is locally produced and also imported from Costa Rica, Honduras and Mexico in UHT long-life packaging. There are also donations of powdered milk for the poor which mainly come from the EU. In March 2011, the Calleja group announced its plan to build a processing facility and storage center as well as open 12 new stores with a cost of $40 million. The construction work for the meat and poultry processing facility, which will also have capacity for fruit and vegetable packaging, has already begun near the capital city, San Salvador. On February 2009, Mexican juices and nectars company Jumex invested $20 million in its processing plant in El Salvador, which has been operating since the beginning of last year as a distribution center for the region. This plant, which will also manufacture its own packaging, is surrounded by 42,000 square meters of land. Jumex Centroamericana, the regional division of Grupo Jumex, has a portfolio of more than 12 different beverage brands as well as a presence in Central America, Panama, Dominican Republic and 12 other Caribbean countries. CAFTA-DR has also attracted foreign investment to El Salvador including companies such as CALVO tuna processor from Spain. Another important industry in this sector is meat processing. There are approximately 10 companies which are members of the Salvadoran Meat Processors Association (ASICARNE). Imports of U.S. pork meat by this sector have grown tremendously over the last five years, due to the fact that the Salvadoran population is a large consumer of sausage products. Sigma Alimentos a large Mexican company meat processor and deli company has invested in a pork processing plant to cover local demand and export to other Central American countries. The Salvadoran market may be significantly larger than portrayed by U.S. export data. A high percentage of El Salvador’s imports of consumer-oriented products are actually registered as imported by Guatemala. The main reason is that many containers come through Guatemala’s Santo Tomas port and even though they are in-transit to El Salvador, local customs officials tally them as Guatemalan imports. Particularly close links with the United States are evident by the strong commercial relationship between both countries. IV. BEST PRODUCT PROSPECTS Top 10 best product prospects imports from the United States (Million of U.S. Dollars) % Change 2009/10 Product Description 2009 2010 Red Meats 5,589 7,036 25.89 Breakfast Cereals 2,755 3,179 15.39 Poultry Meat 2,366 4,971 110.1 Fresh fruit 14,641 15,572 6.35 Soybean meal 50,661 57,300 13.1 Fruit and Vegetable 13,025 14,454 10.97 cotton 81,118 82,855 2.14 Hides & Skins 1,000 1,572 57.2 Soybeans 0 3,761 Dairy Products 6,939 7,718 11.2 Source: USDA/FAS BICO REPORT A. Products not present in significant quantities, but which have good sales potential: Frozen food are growing in demand, and are expected to continue an upward trend Low fat, low cholesterol Dairy products Beef. Wine Pet foods Certain processed foods continue to see strong growth as more people join the work force and eat out of home. Especially promising products are convenience and fast foods, out-of-home foods (snacks, ramen style soups, etc., which are consumed more by lower-income households and young consumers), healthy and light foods. V. POST CONTACT AND FURTHER INFORMATION Office of Agricultural Affairs USDA/FAS U.S. Embassy El Salvador Blvd. Santa Elena Sur y Calle Conchagua Antiguo Cuscatlán, La Libertad, El Salvador Phones: (503) 2501-2999 exts. 3414/3412 Fax: (503) 2278-3351 E-mail: Website: SUPERMERCADOS SELECTOS (Calleja, S. A. de C. V.) Prolongación 59 Ave. Sur ente Avenida Olímpica y Calle El Progreso San Salvador, El Salvador Contact: Jose Alberto Corpeño, Import manager Tel.: (503) 2267-3628/ 2267-3600 e-mail : HIPER EUROPA, S.A. Calle Nueva 1, Block 21 entre Carretera a Santa Tecla y 71 Ave. Sur, Col. Escalón. San Salvador, El Salvador Tel.: (503) 2298-8000 Fax.: (503) 2298-8244 Contact: Lic. Jaime Saca E-mail : PRICE SMART Boulevard Sur, Calle Cortez Blanco, Avenida El Pepeto, Urb. Madre Selva, Antiguo Cuscatlán, El Salvador Contact : Sr. Chris Souhrada Tel.: (503) 2246-7400 ext. 202 e-mail : WAL-MART MEXICO - CENTRAL AMERICA Alameda Roosevelt y 65 Ave. Sur Centro Financiero Gigante Torre E, Nivel 8, San Salvador, El Salvador Contact: Sr. Roberto Vásquez Tel: (503) 2523-6800 E-Mail:
Posted: 25 January 2012

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