Photo Melissa Fernandez, La Nacion
Photo Melissa Fernandez, La Nacion

QCOSTARICA – Despite the growing number of shopping centres and supermarkets, the pulperias, Costa Rica’s corner stores, refuse to disappear.

In fact, four in ten Ticos (Costa Ricans) say the buy at pulperias, this according to the 2015 consumer habits survey by the Asociación GS Uno.

“The pulperias are not dead because many have focused on providing complimentary services, some even provide customer financing, but most is the convenience,” said Ana Teresa Vásquez, director of the Cámara de Detallistas (Chamber of Retailers).

The pulperia provides closeness to the people, a major factor that influences the survival of this type of business. Another is geographical. Consumers have to travel a distance to a supermarket or shopping centre, whereas the pulperias are everywhere.

In communities across the country, the pulperia is typically within a block of two of its customer, within walking distance, while a car is required to reach a convenience store or supermarket.

“What the survey reveals is that when a person is out of a product they will run to the pulperia and not the supermarket. If not the pulperia, then the convenience store,” explains Varela.

“In rural areas it is different that in urban centres,” explains Guillermo Varela,  executive director of GS Uno.

In that sense, Varela acknowledges that in the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM), pulperias have lost some ground to the growing trend of convenience stores such as Ampm, Freshmarket, Vindi, etc. and supermarkets. Vindi, for example, is owned and operated by the Automercado chain of supermarkets.

The survey reveals the pulperias are notably most used by the low and lower middle class and convenience stores by middle to upper middle class.

Other interesting data from the survey reveals that 45% of the respondents said they buy fruits and vegetables at “ferias” (farmer’s markets found in every large community or town in the country) while 38% only at supermarkets. When it comes to meats, consumers are equally split between supermarkets and independent butchers.


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