Forget Brazil’s coastal cities: The inland cities are where future consumer growth in retail is expected.
That’s the conclusion of a study by the Boston Consulting Group entitled “Capturing Retail Growth in Brazil’s Rising Interior.” The study noted that while the country’s economic growth is slowing — and consequently consumers’ appetite for spending — the reverse is true for consumers living in the country’s interior cities. Consumption there is expected to account for more than a 45 percent growth in the retail sector, or $60 billion in new purchases, through 2020.
Because few of the country’s retailers are prepared to capitalize on this growth — most are focused on selling to consumers in the highly populated coastal cities — the study noted five areas where retailers can improve their efforts to reach inland consumers.
While there is a disconnect between where the current retail stores are located compared with where future consumer growth is expected, any company looking to expand inland has four major challenges. Those challenges are: Less density in inland populations so consumer demand is fragmented; high infrastructure costs; a shortage of local talent, and a lack of understanding of consumer preferences as the inland shopper is different from their urban counterpart, even at the same income level.
The study also provided some strategic ideas for what companies can do to improve their operations and profitability for those who wish to target that market.
Think clusters, not individual cities, is the first suggestion. Inland consumers are more willing to shop further afield, up to 20 miles, to make a purchase, according to one apparel retailer in Brazil, the study noted. That means finding a hub that can service multiple neighboring cities. The study suggested Ribeirao Preto, an inland city of São Paulo, which has 200,000 households and accounts for $4 billion in annual purchase volume. Using it as a commercial hub for cities within a 60-mile radius allows a retailer to service 1 million households and more than $16 billion in purchases, the study concluded.
New store formats, such as smaller footprints, pop-ups and “virtual” stores were another suggestion floated in the study. It explained that retailers could offer a sample selection of merchandise, while expanding the online options. The physical presence would provide contact for shoppers who need assistance, particularly those who have little experience shopping online. Havan is a fast-growing apparel retailer that fueled its expansion in Brazil’s interior cities through megastores along major highways. In addition to capturing the passing traffic, the size of the stores allow for features such as food courts, cinemas and play areas for children while their parents shop.
Given that Brazil ranks fifth globally in the total number of Internet users, the study also said that more than 60 percent of the country’s population is expected to be connected by the end of the decade. The growth of faster networks would help retailers reach consumers in non-urban areas and “the lower rungs of the economic ladder in Brazil” more quickly via mobile access than through the traditional brick-and-mortar channel.
As far as infrastructure logistics, the study suggested that it might be more cost-effective to outsource that component of the business. It also noted a trend among retailers selling inland now where they may have one shirt style in one color instead of all color options so consumers can get a sense of the style and fit of the shirt, knowing that shoppers could purchase the other color options online.
As for the scarcity of the local workforce, the study noted that Brazil lags behind 13 countries, including the other BRIC nations (Russia, India and China). Franchise models can help with the labor shortage, as well as companies making investments in training, the study said.