Mexico: Retail earmarked for long-term growth
With a domestic market of 112m, which includes a burgeoning middle class and a steadily expanding economy, Mexico is proving fertile territory for retailers keen to reap the rewards of an increasingly consumer-driven marketplace.
The retail sector has notched up several years of reasonably strong growth following a slowdown in commercial sales during 2008 and 2009. A rise in personal credit, growing consumer confidence and low inflation are now paving the way for further expansion. However, obstacles such as corruption allegations and an inefficient labour market may well restrict growth levels in the short term.
Expansion within the retail industry remained strong throughout 2012 for the second consecutive year as sales notched up an annual increase of 6.5%. After posting modest real growth of 2.1% in 2009, sales accelerated to a more respectable 4.9% in 2010, before hitting 7.8% in the following year, according to the national retail association, ANTAD. Growth within the association was significantly higher, with ANTAD reporting an expansion of 10.8% amongst its members’ outlets for 2012.
Commercial real estate sales in Mexico also grew 8.9% in 2012 from 22.1m sq metres to 23.7 sq metres, according to ANTAD. The expansion was generated by an investment of around $3.6bn, which led to the opening of 1939 stores.
Members of ANTAD, which includes the largest retailer in the country and global powerhouse Walmart, known locally as Walmex, have increased their overall contribution to GDP by 0.1% annually since 2010. Figures show that the association contributed 3.2% to GDP at the end of 2012. Experts point out that the association’s revenues make up just 19% of total commerce, suggesting that the role Mexico’s wider retail and commerce industry is playing in the economy is growing significantly.
While consumer confidence has yet to return to its 2007 pre-crisis level of 106, it reached a four-year high of 100 in January of this year, before slipping to 95.4 in March, according to data from the Central Bank of Mexico and the national statistics agency (INEGI). During the worst of the crisis in 2009, consumer confidence plummeted to 79.
In another positive sign, household credit for consumption purposes returned to double-digit growth and continued to outpace household credit issued for housing. Growth of credit for consumption has stayed in double-digit figures since the summer of 2011.
However, while the outlook appears promising, the retail industry still faces a number of challenges that could curb its expansion, including its inefficient labour and goods market. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2012-13 Global Competitiveness Report, goods market efficiency ranked 79th out of 144 economies, while the country placed 102nd for labour market efficiency.
Corruption is also a serious issue throughout the economy, with players across the sectors citing it as the major hurdle to doing business. The extent of corruption was highlighted in 2012 in international press reports that claimed Walmex had bribed 19 officials to gain access to desirable retail property. The report triggered investigations on both sides of the border, with Mexico’s anticorruption body stating it found no irregularities in payments for zoning and environmental permits, although several audits are still ongoing.
Business remained reasonably robust for Walmex in 2012, despite the corruption inquiry, although sales in stores that have been established for more than one year fell by 1.9%, in February 2013. In contrast, sales across the remaining members of ANTAD increased 5% over the same period.
While short-term hurdles risk limiting retail growth in the immediate term, larger propellants, including the growing economy, expansive population and rising sales, are expected to galvanise the sector’s expansion over time. Mexico’s broader economic growth should also provide retail sales with an added boost in the form of growing consumer confidence and credit.