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Retailers report slight growth in ’10, rising cost of food, gas likely cause

Chevron agreed to sell its Texaco operations in Puerto Rico. (Credit: © Mauricio Pascual)

The island’s retail sector ended 2010 with a slight 1.85 percent year-over-year increase, generating more than $2.3 billion in activity. However, the rising costs of food, gasoline and medicines, coupled with the influx of federal funding, could explain the spending growth.

Puerto Rico Trade statistics released Tuesday show that last year’s big winners were new and used car dealers and gasoline stations, which saw a 14.3 percent and 23.3 percent increase in business, respectively.

The increase in car sales is in line with what industry representatives have expressed recently that activity has been improving slowly. Puerto Rico Trade statistics showed car sales generated nearly $2.6 billion in sales last year, up from the $2.2 billion on record for 2009.

Gasoline stations rode on the wave of rising oil prices, generating nearly $3.2 billion in sales in 2010. That total represented a $605 million increase over 2009’s results.

On the flip side, grocery, clothing and toy stores took the biggest hits during the 12-month period ending December 2010. Puerto Rico Trade said consumers spent nearly $5 billion in food purchases last year, down from the $5.6 billion reported the prior year.

Just last week, the Food Marketing Industry and Distribution Chamber released a study that evidenced a drop in purchases of unprepared foods, but assured there is optimism among retailers that things will get better this year.

A very merry Christmas
December, apparently, was a good month for local retailers who saw their sales increase by nearly 5 percent as consumers spent more than $3 billion on their holiday shopping.

The last month of the year is usually a brisk one for sales, as workers receive their bonus checks and withdraw their Christmas Club savings. Extra money also was flowing in December as a result of the implementation of the Tax Reform, through which Gov. Luis Fortuño mandated the elimination of payroll deductions during the final weeks of the month.

Toy stores, jewelry shops and home goods stores saw good results, and double-digit growth. Unsurprisingly, paint, hardware and construction retailers were also busy at the checkout during a month when homeowners typically spruce up their homes ahead of the prolonged holiday season in Puerto Rico.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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