Mexico: Consumer confidence supports sales
Rising per capita incomes and resultant increased consumer spending, combined with a growing population, have been key drivers of Mexico’s retail industry over the past decade. The sector is widely expected to continue its recovery following a difficult two-year period brought on by the global financial crisis. Indeed, with consumer confidence nearly at pre-crisis levels and the continued development of a sophisticated and organised retail market, things look positive for the sector.
Mexico’s consumer confidence index reached 96.99 in May, its highest level since the first quarter of 2008 and 7.8% higher than May 2011 levels, according to the National Statistics Institute (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía, INEGI). Newfound consumer confidence was also reflected in retail sales throughout the country as INEGI reported a 2.5% year-on-year increase of retail sales in April, largely due to higher sales of clothing, home appliances and computers. The first quarter of 2012 has certainly been largely positive, with retail sales up 4.7% on the same period in 2011.
The National Retail Association, (Asociación Nacional de Tiendas de Autoservicio y Departamentales, ANTAD), reported accumulated growth from January-May among its members – which include more than 30,000 retail stores – of 11.9% in the grocery segment, 12.7% in clothing, 10% in general merchandise and 11.3% overall.
A proportion of the reported growth, however, was due to the opening of a number of new retail outlets in the country. Taking these new outlets out of the equation brings figures much closer to the national averages. A closer look at year-on-year growth from only those ANTAD stores that were already open in 2011 shows growth of 4.2% in groceries, 7.2% in clothing, 4.2% in general merchandise and 4.5% overall.
Auto sales, another common measuring stick for consumer confidence, have also recorded significant growth in the first five months of 2012. According to figures from the National Automobile Industry Association, 80,267 automobiles were sold to the public in May, a 16.9% increase on the same period in 2011. Increases were indeed reported in each of the first five months of 2012 with the total sales during the period of 383,731 vehicles – 11.3% higher than total sales of 344,761 vehicles in the same period the year before.
Meanwhile, retail space in the country continues to expand rapidly. From 1993 to 2011 retail space in rose an average of 9% each year (hitting 10.5% in 2011) bringing total to 22.1m metres, according to ANTAD’s 2011 annual report. Real estate investment from the retail sector now equals more than $3.6bn.
Wider economic development has certainly contributed to the growth of retail over the past two decades. Gross national income (GNI) per capita has more than tripled in the last 20 years, increasing from $2790 in 1990 to $8930 in 2010, while the country’s population has ballooned from 84.3m to 113.4m during the same timeframe, according to World Bank data.
Today Mexico is the world’s 11th-largest country by population and the 13th-largest economy, rankings that have not gone unnoticed by international retailers. Over the past two decades numerous international retailers, such as the US’s Walmart and HEB, have entered the Mexican marketplace with varying degrees of success.
Walmart, known as Walmex in Mexico, is now the biggest retailer in the country, though recent allegations that it paid bribes to expedite the granting of permits have resulted in the retailer scaling back its expansion plans. The allegations, which date back six years, arose in a New York Times article in April and have led to an internal investigation by the corporation as well as by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Walmex, which had planned on opening 410-436 stores in 2012, has announced that number will be reduced to 325-335.
The allegations against Walmex and the ongoing investigations in the US are not expected to put much of a dent in the overall growth of Mexico’s retail sector. Economic growth is expected to continue its steady recovery – the IMF forecasts GDP growth of 3.6% in 2012 and 4.1% in 2013 ¬–which should drive the continued development of the retail sector.
Retail and consumer spending are themselves growing in significance in the wider national economy; ANTAD calculates activities from its members alone contributed to 3.2% of GDP in 2011, up from 1.95% in 2003. Though certainly not without its challenges, on the whole Mexico’s large population, increasing consumer awareness and economic growth are all strong signs pointing to a positive future for the sector.