Juan Benavides: member of the board of Banco Falabella.

Author:Mann, Joseph A., JR.


The essence of retail business--supplying customers with a wide mix of products, good prices and good service--has not changed, said Juan Benavides, Member of the Board of Banco Falabella, the financial arm of large regional department store Falabella.

"What is different is the rate of change," added Benavides, who oversaw the group's rapid expansion over the last several years. "What used to happen in a year in retail now can happen in weeks or days. Fashion used to change on a seasonal basis, but today it changes every 15 days."

Benavides, a Chilean former CEO of Falabella department store, noted that the ability of consumers to find and compare products online, and see reviews of what they are planning to buy, represents "a gigantic change."

Whereas stores purchase products and put them on display on their shelves, today's customer can also buy directly online, whether they're interested in national products or even imported items. At Falabella, only about 5 percent of customers buy online, but this is changing rapidly and could reach 10 to 15 percent in coming years. Falabella and Sodimac home improvement centers have operations in Chile, Argentina, Peru and Colombia. To keep up, company executives and store managers "have to be very aware of changes in consumer taste and demand," Benavides said. Falabella buys from...

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