History of retailing in Latin America: from the corner store to the supermarket

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The big department stores of the nineteenth century transformed the urban structure, culture of consumption and ways of doing business in the major Latin American capitals. Nowadays, shopping malls have left the middle- and upper-class neighbourhoods to reach a larger mass of consumers, and for the first time supermarkets enjoy a high level of participation in the region’s food distribution channels. In this chapter we will give a brief overview of the history of retailing in Latin America, describing the transition from monumental city-center department stores to the expansion of supermarkets throughout the urban space. We draw on national cases for the analysis of each stage in this history, as they provide a broader explanation of the period. Likewise, given the specificities of the subject, we place emphasis on a cultural approach, as well as one involving commercial strategies. The development of modern retailing is a phenomenon that emerged in Latin America during the late nineteenth century as part of the first globalisation, but the system was not consolidated until the middle of the last century. Moreover, it was not until the second half of the 1990s that the sector underwent explosive growth. Two of the issues that we stress in this overview are how the sector’s commercial strategies are configured based on tensions between the global and the local, and how these strategies seek to address specific problems such as market size, or competition with multinational companies using local resources. We start by presenting a review of the literature on the culture of consumption in Latin America, which will serve as an introduction to our overview of retail history. Then, we provide a general outline of the periodisation of retail in the region, before drawing on secondary sources to sketch out the main characteristics of each of the stages in question.
Idioma originalInglés
Título de la publicación alojadaThe Routledge Companion to the History of Retailing
EditoresJon Stobart, Vicki Howard
Número de páginas15
ISBN (versión digital)9781315560854
ISBN (versión impresa)9781138675087
EstadoPublicada - 2019


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