MEXICO CITY — Siman, a department-store chain catering to Central America’s growing middle class, hopes sales will double in 2015, helped by operational efficiencies.

“We expect same-store sales to increase 8 to 10 percent from 5 to 7 percent last year,” operations manager Rafael Corpeno told WWD. “We are working to improve our inventory management and optimize our merchandise mix.”
Owned by the wealthy Siman family, the El Salvador-based retailer operates 14 department stores across Central America, largely in El Salvador and Guatemala, though also in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Last October, the chain opened a 129,000-square-foot flagship in Guatemala City’s Pradera Concepcion mall, the last in a blitz of recent openings.

Siman does not disclose sales or profit figures for Siman or its retail franchising operations, which run Inditex’s stores in the region including Zara, Massimo Dutti and Bershka. Grupo Siman also has franchise rights for MAC Cosmetics and Apple in Central America.

Grupo Siman bought Oracle’s merchandising software last year to help streamline its operations. The technological upgrade coupled with the region’s expanding retail market and economy should help boost this year’s fortunes, Corpeno said.

According to Corpeno, Central America’s retail sales will rise by 4 percent to 5 percent this year, fueled by a 2 percent to 3 percent GDP hike (matching last year’s) and a sharp expansion in consumer credit.

Catering to middle-income consumers, Siman is Central America’s answer to Macy’s “though on a much smaller scale,” Corpeno said.

Top-selling women’s brands include Jessica Simpson, Kasper and Vince Camuto while Michael Kors, Nautica and Polo do best in the men’s aisle. The chain also sells female apparel under its private labels Sabrina, Orange and Unexpected and men’s under Men’s Agent, Team Mate and Unexpected. Prices range from $12 to $60.

Corpeno said the department-store circuit remains largely unexploited in Central America with only Sears and Honduran chain Carrion gaining significant traction. He said 92-year-old Grupo Siman competes through faster and more fashionable merchandise rotation.

Tougher competition comes from the Inditex brands and new arrivals such as Forever 21, which recently entered Costa Rica, Corpeno said.

Siman has no immediate plans to open more stores but will likely focus future growth in Costa Rica, which together with Panama has the region’s fastest growing economy. Panama is not on the agenda, however, because “while it’s the most accessible market, it is also the most competitive.”

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