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A Growth Spurt in Querétaro, Mexico

The fast-growing midsize city has become a hot spot for global fashion retail brands looking to capitalize on the country’s accelerating economy.

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD Special Report issue 05/19/2014

Querétaro, a fast-growing midsize city in Mexico, has become a hot spot for global fashion retail brands looking to capitalize on the country’s accelerating economy.

This story first appeared in the May 19, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Growth is so brisk that the city, nestled between San Miguel de Allende and Mexico City, is attracting some 14 households a day, lured by a sharp increase in multinationals setting up headquarters there.

“Many companies are opening up in Querétaro, and that’s generating a lot of jobs and attracting a lot of people,” Beatriz Calles, director of Mexico’s fashion week, said.

And not just any jobs. According to Jesus Martinez, director of Swiss premium shoe brand Bally in Mexico, corporate expansion has triggered an exodus of mid- and top-tier executives from Mexico’s largest cities, notably Mexico City and Monterrey in the North, to further their careers in the flourishing metropolis.

“Querétaro’s population and social circles are growing exponentially,” Martinez said. “This growth and the high level of culture and sophistication that it’s creating is a very interesting mix for brands.”

This wasn’t the case 11 years ago, when Martinez opened Mexican designer brand boutique Centilia.

“People questioned why they had to pay more for premium brands,” he recalled. However, when Martinez managed a special sale for Julia y Renata, a growing designer brand, the dramatic change in consumption habits was palpable.

“I noticed how my same boutique clients had changed,” Martinez said. “They were not asking for prices anymore and were buying many more pieces.”

With the economy growing at a robust 5.5 percent a year, Querétaro is also home to Antea Lifestyle Center, a recently opened high-end mall hosting the likes of Victoria’s Secret, Gap, American Eagle, Calvin Klein and Liverpool department store. Other labels including A|X Armani Exchange and Forever 21 are set to roll out stores in coming months, while luxe department store chain El Palacio de Hierro is slated to arrive in October.

Carlota de la Vega, owner of Mexican fashion consultancy Cantra and knitwear label Camomilla, agreed Querétaro is all the rage.

“There is a high fashion consciousness because of the type of people who are moving there, who come from big cities,” de la Vega said. “The arrival of a mall like Antea is a sign that big growth is expected.”

Antea’s marketing manager, Alexis Ellstein, said rent in Querétaro malls is an average of 25 to 30 percent lower than similar stores in Mexico City. Apparel prices, meanwhile, hover at about 8 to 12 percent below those in the capital city.

Querétaro’s state government is also helping tout the city’s fashion allure.

“The governor’s wife [Sandra Albarrán] is a big supporter of fashion, design and craftsmanship,” de la Vega said.

Next in line after Querétaro could be Puebla, a large city located south of Mexico City where leading mall Geopolis recently added a pavilion dedicated to luxury brands.

“Puebla has a big textiles tradition,” de la Vega said, adding that León, a shoe industry production and export hub in the state of Guanajuato that’s also growing, could become a top retail market in the long term as well.

“Leon is growing a lot with many people moving there, but it is still very conservative,” Martinez said.

Asked if Querétaro’s main streets could soon see the arrival of a slew of fashion labels, he noted, “No one shops on the street in Mexico except for on Presidente Masaryk [Mexico City’s answer to New York’s Fifth Avenue] and even there, it’s hard to sell because people are used to buying in malls.”