Supermarket sales in Chile are up 3.6% for September compared to 1999, marking the first rise in sales since May. They are also the second highest this year, after April which registered a 7.4% rise. Total sales are expected to gross US$4.9bn this year.
Fresh meat sales, the principal contributor to the rise, are up 17.3%, followed by non-consumables such as perfumes, toys and glassware, up 6.6%.

One key reason for this rise is that end-of-month sales figures have been included, but were not in the August accounting. These end-of-month figures are normally higher following increased spending when workers receive their end-of-month pay packets. Seasonal factors, such as Chile's Independence Day celebrations, meant that more meat was consumed than normal, while meat prices have been higher because imports of Argentine red meat fell as a result of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in that country.

Chilean Supermarket Association (Asach) President Fernando Alvear estimates sales will continue to rise at 2.5% for the rest of the year. This contrasts to his previous optimistic estimate of 5% made at the beginning of the year, the result of an overly optimistic assessment of the economy following last year's recession.

The announcement of the rise in sales comes as competition in Chile's supermarket sector intensifies. This sector is currently led by the Distribution & Servicio group (D&S), controlling the Ekono, Almac and Lider outlets, with a 27.8% market share, followed by Santa Isabel, of the Disco/Ahold holding with 12.1% market share.

Santa Isabel announced its takeover of the AGAS chain earlier this
month and aims to become the biggest operator in Chile. It is looking to continue its expansion and will have US$50m a year to invest from 2003 onwards.

Asach statistics show that 60% of all food sales in Chile are made in supermarkets, demonstrating how the supermarkets are replacing the traditional vendors. These figures explain the current level of competition and expansion in the supermarket sector in the country.

By Steve Anderson