Latin America continues to offer the best prospects for retail expansion in emerging markets.

According to A.T. Kearney’s 2013 Global Retail Development Index, or GRDI, Brazil and Chile maintained their respective first and second spots in a survey of the most attractive emerging markets for retail development, and Uruguay moved up a single notch to third place from fourth in 2012.

Among the BRIC, or Brazil, Russia, India and China, markets, China moved down one step to fourth place and India fell out of the top 10 entirely, moving to number 14.

Turkey, in 13th place last year, worked its way up to sixth place, although the study was conducted prior to the recent wave of political unrest in Istanbul. The top 10 was filled out by Mongolia, Georgia, Kuwait and Armenia.

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Although still just outside the top 20, Mexico leaped as much as Turkey, advancing to number 21 from number 28 in last year’s study.

Despite Brazil hitting the top spot in the study for the third consecutive year and China remaining in the top 10, results for the BRIC markets were uneven. India’s decline, to number 14 this year from seventh a year ago, wasn’t mirrored by Russia’s performance, which saw a three-spot advance to number 23.

“The BRIC countries are the fast-developing countries, but they’re developing in different ways,” said Mike Moriarty, A.T. Kearney partner and coleader of the study, conducted annually since 2002. “In India, there are regulatory concerns, different standards at the state and federal level, including some protectionist barriers. In Russia, its rating has dropped, but that’s for a number of reasons, including the amount of development that’s already taken place there.”

The study rates nations on criteria including market attractiveness and risk, country risk and the need for marketers to move quickly to take advantage of expansion opportunities.

Even the top 10 was populated with what A.T. Kearney referred to as “little gems,” such as Georgia and Armenia in Central Asia, a reflection of how stagnation in larger markets and the growth of the middle class in smaller ones has opened up opportunities in some unexpected places.

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Moriarty pointed out that those effects are starting to be felt in sub-Saharan Africa, which was represented in the top 30 markets by Botswana and Namibia at numbers 25 and 26, respectively. “These countries are small but they’ve got a growing middle class, young populations and are generating retail growth,” he said. “Ghana and Ethiopia, which already has more than 80 million people, are coming up right behind them. By the end of the century, five of the most populous countries on the planet will be in sub-Saharan Africa and there’s considerable benefit to be realized for companies that can handle the risks and challenges,” including a relatively undeveloped infrastructure.

Including this year’s top three markets, Latin America accounted for seven of the top 30 markets, and Mexico’s seven-notch leap to number 21 came on the heels of a 5.3 percent increase in per capita spending, albeit one concentrated in the nation’s largest cities.