By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
While retailers across the United States are shutting down their brick-and-mortar stores at a record pace (according to the brokerage firm Credit Suisse, more than 8,600 U.S. brick-and-mortar outlets will close their doors this year), here in Mexico, the in-person shopping experience is as popular as ever.
In a country where the old adage of caveat emptor is engrained in the national psyche and where buyers are constantly leery of online credit card fraud, the e-commerce phenomena has not taken hold with the same fury as it has in the United States or many other Latin American nations.
In fact, less than 2 percent of retail purchases made in Mexico in 2016 were over the internet, according to the Mexican Association of Online Sales (AMVO), comparad to about 9 percent in the United States.
And while e-commerce is gaining popularity in some sectors of the Mexican economy, mall and department store sales this year are expected to be the highest in a decade.
One example of the Mexican preference for brick-and-mortar stores over the digital market is the Premium Outlets Punta Norte (POPN) shopping mall, located just north of Mexico City.
“We are expecting double-digit growth in our sales this year, probably around 15 percent,” explained POPN marketing manager Carolina Juárez.
“And right now, we are receiving an estimated 3,500 visitors a day.”
The 170-store Punta Norte mall, which specializes in international luxury brands, has been around for 13 years, and has already undergone three major expansions.
“We are currently at 98 percent capacity in terms of locale availability,” Juárez said.
“We don’t have any unused shop space left.”
Juárez said that the Simon Property Group, the international conglomerate that owns the POPN mall as well as similar properties across the United States, South Korea and Malaysia, is even considering building a second Premium Outlets shopping center in Mexico sometime next year, probably in the central Bajío region.
She said that Mexicans from across the country are now planning entire shopping trips just to visit the massive retail complex, and POPN also receives many international visitors looking to cash in on the bargains.
POPN shops offer high-end luxury brand products from two or three seasons ago with discounts between 25 and 65 percent.
There are also sporadic additional discounts such as the Buen Fin sale in September and the after-Christmas sale in January, where savvy buyers can score even larger markdowns.
But Juárez admitted that times are changing, and even though more than 90 percent of the merchandize sold at POPN falls into the apparel and accessory category (a sector where customers are more apt to avoid e-commerce options because they want to try something on before making a purchase), there is a growing demand for internet marketing nationwide.
“We haven’t gotten there yet,” she said, “but I think it won’t be long before more people start wanting to buy quality brands at outlet prices online.”
The consumer market is constantly evolving, and retailers will inevitably adjust to the growing demands of their clients.