Want To Own A Hispanic Retail Business In Costa Rica?

Hispanic entrepreneurs can take advantage of the competitive retail scene in the Central American tourist spot

Editor’s note: This article is part three in a three-part series

I’d be remiss if I overlooked the retail sector when it comes to establishing a business in beachfront Costa Rican towns such as Tamarindo. This is a bit different from the restaurant scene. Many existing tourist-oriented shops, some of which are in fact owned and operated by local Hispanic businesspeople or “ticos”, are fiercely competitive. Because they often carry the same goods at similar prices, they come and go quite frequently.

To complicate matters, they often compete with Hispanic street vendors who further snipe sales, especially during the peak season of November through April. The price of their completely legal Cuban cigars, for example, is much less than those in traditional stores.

One way to get around this is to set firm—in not slightly inflated—item prices and then generously offer to discount them. Because many gringos—Americans in particular—are hesitant to haggle, this approach may increase sales and create word of mouth, with tourists sharing the details of “great bargains” with one another.

This isn’t to say that some of these stores that don’t practice this tactic aren’t successful. This is particularly true of those that front the main drag, which tourists frequent as they head to the beach or to restaurants. They’re often clogged at the doors with tourists looking at colorfully printed pullovers, sunglasses and locally made pottery—not to mention the hats, shot glasses and beach towels emblazoned with the Imperial logo (Imperial being the national beer of choice).

 

 

Off the Beaten Path

However, stores that are tucked away in some of the new, gringo-inspired mini-malls tend to be overlooked. Their windows, as well dressed as they are—complete with those same Imperial-logoed items—are too far off the road to register to passing tourists. This is true, also, of similar venues located outside the downtown area that require a car—a luxury to many, including locals—to get to. (Alas, an authorized Apple dealer unfortunately closed because of this.)

But these fringe areas can actually be exploited if precisely targeted stores are located there. Locals, for example, need access to hardware, furniture and computer stores. Finding one now requires a long drive to Liberia, Santa Cruz or San Jose—scenic but unnecessary trips I’ve made to just find a simple wall hanger.