Big Boxes, Mega Stores, and Category Killers Overseas: The Emerging Geography of North American Chain Stores (NACS) in Puerto Rico

By Guilbe, Carlos J. | Southeastern Geographer, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

Big Boxes, Mega Stores, and Category Killers Overseas: The Emerging Geography of North American Chain Stores (NACS) in Puerto Rico


Guilbe, Carlos J., Southeastern Geographer


North American Chain Stores (NACS) have been moving to international markets as part of their corporate expansion in a globalized economy. Puerto Rico, as a central place in the Caribbean, is becoming an attractive market. The arrival of these major retailers coincided with the implementation of neoliberal practices on the island. New retailers such as Wal-Mart have been challenging established retailers such as K-Mart. The competition between the two category killers is becoming international. Both mega retailers are generating levels of competition and locational strategies similar to the continental United States. Other major retailers such as Sears, JCPenney, Home Depot, COSTCO and Sam's are also intensifying their presence, affecting the local small and medium retailers and restructuring the general land use pattern on the island. In the past 15 years, Puerto Rico has become an important regional prototype that could be diffused into major Latin American urban areas in the near future.

Las cadenas de tiendas de Norteamerica (NACS) se han estado moviendo a mercados internacionales como parte de su expansion corporativa en una economia globalizada. Puerto Rico, como un sitio central del Caribe, se esta convirtienclo en un mercado atractivo. La llegada de estos grandes minoristas coincide con la implementacion de practicas neoliberales en la isla. Nuevos minoristas como Wal-Mart han estado desafiando a otros minoristas establecidos como K-Mart. La competencia entre estos dos gigantes se ha ido haciendo internacional. Ambos mega-minoristas estan generando niveles de competencia y estrategias geograficas similares a las de los Estados Unidos continentales. Otros grandes minoristas como Sears, JCPenney, Home Depot, COSTCO y Sam's tambien estan intensificando su presencia, afectando a los pequenos y medianos minoristas y reestructurando el patron general de utilizacion de tierras en la isla. En los ultimos 15 anos, Puerto Rico se ha convertido en un importante prototipo regional que se pudiera difundir a importantes areas urbanas de America Latina en el futuro cercano.

KEY WORDS: Puerto Rico, North American Chain Stores (NACS), Retail Location, Market Areas, Caribbean

INTRODUCTION

Consumer-oriented activities such as retailing are becoming the backbone in the land use of major urban areas worldwide. "While citizens as producers and nation state residents may complain about globalization, citizens as consumers often find it hard to resist" (Baker 2005, p 924). For decades, major retailers concentrated in cities and metropolitan areas within developed countries and advanced economies. However, the more recent diffusion and acceptance of neoliberal philosophies in many Latin American countries has represented an opportunity for expansion of major chain stores from Europe and North America (Reardon and Berdegue 2002; Biles 2006). Mexico City, Monterey, Sao Paolo, Rio de Janeiro, Santo Domingo, Panama City, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Cordoba and San Juan are becoming central nodes of potential markets for those major retailers. The hinterland of major Latin American cities covers areas beyond the political boundaries. At a different scale in the hierarchy of Latin American cities, San Juan is becoming an important central place for services in the eastern Caribbean. These primary and secondary cities are becoming targets of major consumer-oriented transnational corporations worldwide. Most of these retailers are coming aggressively from the United States, generating another front of never-ending local debates between local leftists reclaiming imperialism and the local right wing supporting integration with the mainland.

North American Chain Stores (NACS) include department/discount stores and specialized retailers (hardware, pharmacies, bookstores). This wide range of retailers can be summarized in two main groups; low-order goods and high-order goods retailers. In the United States, Wal-Mart dominates the low-order goods market over K-Mart and Target stores since the early 1990s (Graff 1993; 1998). …

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