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Retailers Expect Better Sales This Year
Consumer confidence is up; companies are expanding
By TAINA ROSA
January 22, 2004
Judging from sales this past holiday season, retailers in Puerto Rico are positive that sales in 2004 will be higher than they were last year. They note that consumers seem to be regaining confidence and are spending more, as is the government.
"This is an election year, which means we will see government investing in all of the projects it had planned," said Jorge Fournier, executive vice president of Commercial Centers Management.
Rafael Garcia, general manager of Kraft Foods local operations, also noted that government construction projects are finally taking off. "This year will be better than 2003; theres no doubt about that," he said.
Both believe sales during late 2003 are a positive indicator. According to statistics from the Commerce Development Administration, holiday sales were up almost 6% over 2002.
Juan Lara, principal economist at local firm Estudios Tecnicos and a consultant to Spanish bank BBVA, forecast economic stabilization and moderate growth of 2.5% to 3.5% for Puerto Rico this year. "The strength and timing of the economic recovery at the local level will hinge primarily on the intensity of investments in public works," he said (CB Nov. 7, 2003).
Some companies exceeded their expectations for 2003. Ron Howard, director of J.C. Penney Puerto Rico Inc., said the company had forecast a 1.5% sales increase for 2003 but managed to beat it by 2% to 3%.
Gary Salvatore, president of Sears Roebuck de Puerto Rico Inc., said, "We had a pretty successful sales year." In fact, he noted, the local operation outperformed Sears stores on the [U.S.] mainland.
Local shopping malls will most certainly see more tenants opening stores this year. "We are happy to have chosen Puerto Rico as the market from which to launch our companys expansion in the Caribbean region, and we will be opening more stores here," said Moises Costas, corporate spokesman for Spanish fashion retailer Zara, which has a store in Plaza Las Americas. He added that the company is studying locations for future stores.
Rotelli Pizza & Pasta and Goodfellas Brick Oven Pizza also have aggressive expansion plans. Rotelli intends to open up to 40 locations in seven years; Goodfellas plans three in the next two years.
Fournier said it looks as if new players are interested in coming to the island. "Theres a lot of interest from big players in the industry, judging from the registration list for the upcoming International Council of Shopping Centers Idea Exchange activity," he said, indicating that attendance this year will be higher than it was in 2003. Many national retailers attend the event to make deals with local shopping centers.
This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.