Waiting for the wholesale market

A shop looks in Cuba toward the expanding private sector to reduce the pressures that the latter has on the retail market.

The new shop, Zona +, offers products in boxes and presentations that favour the purchases of private gastronomic businesses and home rentals.

When a new shop of the Cimex Corporation opened its doors in late July it offered an option for the private sector in Cuba, but it has left pending an old demand. Created in the Miramar district of Havana, with the name of Zona +, the installation placed at the reach of consumers an unknown offer, which alleviates commercial work though it does not satisfy the request for a wholesale market for cooperatives and private workers.

The establishment’s large corridors exhibit, on high shelves, food and hygiene products, among others, in large-format boxes and presentations, compared to the common retails commerce. This alternative is especially welcomed by the restaurants, cafeterias and home rentals of the private sector, judging by the initial reactions.


Consumers immediately came out en masse to purchase innumerable large boxes of chicken, five-kilogram packages of spaghetti, sacksful of powdered milk, 20-litre containers of oil, ten-kilogram packages of detergent, complete blister packs of beer and soft drinks and other goods they had previously been forced to buy in small amounts in the conventional shops.


The general manager of the establishment, Javier Muñoz, said that “since the first day we have had large sales volumes.” The daily bills continue being between 10,000 and 16,000 convertible pesos (one CUC is equal to a dollar in the official exchange rate).

It still isn’t the wholesale commerce requested by the private sector and which the government has promised, but it facilitates the purchases and reduces the pressure on the retail shops for the population.

It still isn’t the wholesale commerce requested by the private sector and which the government has promised, but it facilitates the purchases and reduces the pressure on the retail shops for the population.


Multiple buyers of private restaurants expressed to the press their satisfaction over “the good part of buying in large formats.” “When they are smaller one spends more,” said one of them. “You save on making trips, since here you carry once or twice a week,” said another. But they also reported that the supply and demand of products is going through lack of products similar to the daily ones in the rest of the shops.


The centre admits any retail consumer, but “our targeted clients are the self-employed, especially those linked to gastronomy and private home rentals, which have grown in recent times,” the director of marketing of the Cimex Corporation, Gretchen Alfonso, reported.


However, the private workers pointed out that the opening of the wholesale market they have been requesting for years is still pending. The small private enterprises and the non-agricultural cooperatives are demanding it, and the government has promised it as part of the strategy to strengthen private enterprise in the Cuban economy.


Many of the interviewees of this sector regretted that there are not significant differences in the prices of other commercial units. “I hope that in the future there will be discounts or differentiated prices are applied for us, who are large clients,” said the buyer of a restaurant in Old Havana, the Ivan Chef.


Meanwhile, the Cimex marketing director specified that Zona + was not a wholesale shop, though it was created to alleviate the wholesale purchases. The prices vary very little compared to the rest of the shops.


“The wholesale shops have other work systems, another pricing system,” Gretchen Alfonso explained. “We must point out that though the price differentiation is not applied, the commercial margins are favourable in this type of products, which encourages their purchase instead of doing it in small amounts.”


After reiterating that “it is a retail shop,” Alfonso commented that this centre is also seeking to reduce the competition the private enterprises represent for the population consumers when they go out to buy the same products in the barrio.


The new Cimex shop appeared as a new commercial option. If it is just a first step, as the corporation reports, it should be expanded to other Havana municipalities and Cuban provinces and to work forms that open the access of private businesses to a wholesale offer similar to the one available by state enterprises and economic activities. (2016)


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