Increased investment in super-centres during 2001 shows that major food retailers are regaining confidence in Colombia's prospects for economic recovery. The Makro chain recently announced that it will invest US$5m in building a large store in Pereira. Construction of the store began on 17 January. It is being built on 20,000 cubic metres of land and the structure will measure 8,000 square meters. When in full operation, the store will create 150 direct jobs and another 300 to 350 indirect positions.

Makro's Colombian management announced that the Pereira store is part of a medium to long term plan to increase the company's penetration of medium-sized cities. In 2002 another store is scheduled to be built, and possible sites include Bucaramanga and Cucuta. The expansion is an outgrowth of a 20% increase in the (peso) value of sales in 2000. Strongest growth was experienced among institutional customers including clubs, restaurants, hotel chains, and service providers. In 1998, these customers accounted for 20% of total sales, but by 2000 they represented 60% of the total. The company hopes to reach 70% institutional sales in 2001.

By Steve Lewis, correspondent