The viagracrucis of large surfaces

Large stores continue to lose sales volumes in Catalonia. Despite the economic recovery and the fall in unemployment, sales in the sector suffered monthly falls since January last year.

The figures are particularly negative in recent months, according to data from the Catalan Institute of Statistics (Idescat). Without taking into account the change in prices that occurs over time, sales of these types of plants last September fell by 11.2% in just one month. Compared to September 2017, the decline was also noticeable, although lower, by 4.9%. Including price fluctuations, falls are 10.4% compared to August and 3.5% in one year, equally negative figures.

This negative trend has been dragged for two years, although in 2015 and 2016 sales figures showed growth that coincides with the recovery of the economy, after eight years of almost constant falls. The current data, yes, are still far from the drop in sales in the first quarter of 2013, the worst moment of the recession, when year-on-year changes exceeded the 12% drop.

Idescat considers the large-scale non-specialized commercial businesses, ie the products of many fields sold, with over 2,500 square meters dedicated to sales. Although there are also urban ones, as in the case of department store chains located in the center of some Catalan capitals, a very important part of these establishments are hypermarkets owned by large chains and located on the outskirts of the city, often in shopping centers that they combine an offer based on purchases of all kinds with leisure items such as cinemas and restaurants.

"In terms of consumption, we will continue to drive the United States," said Neus Soler, UOC professor (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) who specializes in consumption. For years, following the American trend, a large number of large areas have been opened in Spain, which have undertaken a commercial strategy based on an aggressive policy of low prices. The small trade "tried to compete" in prices, but did not go away and, according to Soler, had to reinvent itself in recent years.

Change of model

Unlike the large surfaces, which "have not renewed" the business model and "expire" little by little, the small trade has renounced to compete with the prices to be spent to offer more expensive products, but quality and a level of proximity that can not be offered by large areas, which are often far from residential areas, explains the professor of the UOC. "The consumer realizes that he is paying more attention for a little more" if he buys in a traditional business, which will force companies that run hypermarkets and other large areas, "says Soler," to "transform the buying experience "offer to customers if they want to maintain market share.

Indeed, in the United States the shopping centers (shopping centers in the suburbs), which almost always include vast areas such as hypermarkets, which went into ruin many years ago. More recently, the mismanagement and inability to adapt to changes in the industry have led the giant Sears, an icon of large surfaces, to declare the competition of creditors. A negative trend that, according to the data, is repeated in Catalonia.

The white signs fall

One of the commercial strategies in the price area in the large supermarket chains, which owned most of the large areas, was the expansion of the offer of white label products, especially during the crisis years. The white brand has offered quality products a bit lower than the lower prices, but with the recovery of recent years has lost importance in the shopping cart for consumers, which has had a negative impact on sales of large warehouses, according to Soler.

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