The viagracrucis of the large surfaces

Large stores continue to lose sales volume in Catalonia. Despite the economic recovery and the drop in unemployment, turnover in the sector since January last year fell with monthly declines.

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

This negative tendency was dragged for two years, although in the 2015 and 2016 sales figures the growth coincided with the recovery of the economy, after nearly eight years of almost constant declines. The current data, yes, are still far from declining sales in the first quarter of 2013, the worst moment in the recession, when year-on-year variations exceeded a decrease of 12%.

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

"As far as consumption is concerned, we are always going to drag the United States," said Neus Soler, professor at the UOC (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya), specialized in consumption. For years, and following the American trend, a large number of large areas in Spain opened a commercial strategy based on an aggressive policy of low prices. The small trade "tried to compete" in prizes, but it did not go away and, according to Soler, had to reinvent himself in recent years.

Change of model

In contrast to the large surfaces, which the commercial model "did not renew" and "little by little" have expired, the small trade has renounced the competition with the prices that it has to spend to offer more expensive products, but from higher quality and a level of proximity that can not be afforded by large areas, which are often far from residential areas, explains the lecturer at the UOC. "The consumer realizes that he is paying more attention" when he buys in a traditional trade, which forces companies that manage hypermarkets and other large areas, "says Soler," to change the shopping experience offered to customers " want to maintain market share.

In fact, in the United States the shopping centres (shopping centers in the suburbs), which almost always include large areas such as hypermarkets, which were knocked down many years ago. More recently, poor management and the inability to adapt to changes in the giant Sears sector, an icon of large surfaces, led to a creditors' competition. A negative trend that, according to the data, is repeated in Catalonia.

The white markings fall

One of the commercial pricing strategies in the large supermarket chains, which owned most of the major areas, was the expansion of the supply of white branded products, especially during the crisis years. The white brand offered quality products slightly less than cheaper prices, but with the recovery of the past few years, it has lost importance in the shopping cart for the consumer, which, according to Soler, had a negative effect on the sale of large stores.