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CONSUMER AFFAIRS

Retailers shows optimism despite lower sales

A change in its systems led to a drop in sales

Spanish version

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The retail sector hopes to rebound in 2017. The retail sector hopes to rebound in 2017.
The retail sector hopes to rebound in 2017. Raúl A. Bernal

Retail activity in Panama, especially in supermarkets, continues to be a challenge due to an increase in the number of stores. 

Added to this factor is the labor uncertainty in some companies and the adverse effects of an extension of the price control program. 

Studies by international pollsters report that sales in the supermarket chain segment in Panama are down 3.1 percent, confirming the 2.7 percent slowdown recorded by El Rey Holdings Corp., reflected in the financial statements for the quarter that ended Dec. 31, 2016. 

This business conglomerate - which owns supermarket chains Rey, Romero, Mr. Price and Metro Plus convenience stores - points out in its latest financial report that its liquidity deteriorated during that quarter, with a deficit of $78.3 million as of Dec. 31, when it was $60.2 million as of Sept. 30, 2016. 

Nonetheless, it notes that cash and bank deposits increased from $6 million to $17.4 million. 

For the first quarter of fiscal year 2017, the group's net sales were reported at $161.3 million, representing a decrease of 14.8 percent ($28 million) compared to the $189.3 million in sales recorded for the same quarter last year. 

This decrease in sales was due in large part to the change in a technology system that is part of the growth process designed by this business consortium for the coming years. That change took about eight months, and often left stores understocked. 

Although the impact on sales was 14.8 percent, compared to the same period last year, "the company is confident that this new system will provide a world-class information and technology infrastructure to accompany the expansion of the business to future ", reaffirmed the report of the consortium.

The cconsortium's 72 stores serve an average of 4 million customers a month. 

The consortium also mentions in its report that it will continue to work to counteract the effects of the last increase in the minimum wage, introduced in January 2016, which caused a significant increase in labor expenditures.

It also plans to open seven stores this year.

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