This week we speak with Pablo Sánchez, Regional Director for Advantage Colombia, Central America, and The Caribbean and Sofía de Grajeda, Director for Central America, to understand how COVID-19 is impacting life and retail in the region.
This is a wide and diverse region, spanning from 6 countries in Central America, to Puerto Rico, an Island in the Caribbean, also a US territory, and to Colombia, one of the largest countries in South America.
One of the challenges that has been common to all markets has been the need to adapt to the new “normal” of sanitary requirements, including the use of facemasks, social distancing, and constant handwashing. Businesses in the region, were not prepared for the transition to a remote work environment. This may have been due to lack of employee trust, technology issues, or both. However, this period has demonstrated that people can work from home, as efficiently or more so than in an office environment.
Many suppliers in the region have cut or eliminated their budgets, including advertising, research, and consulting, aiming to meet their profit goals despite imminent sales losses.
Consumer purchasing power has been significantly reduced, and despite government aid and subsidies, one of the segments that was the most impacted is known throughout the region as “informal economy”. This includes street vendors, construction workers, and others, particularly in countries where public transportation was limited or shut down.
Where has Advantage played a role: Suppliers have approached us suggesting we advise retailers in the region to consider the crisis when evaluating suppliers in their feedback, particularly on the difficulty in meeting forecasts and fill rates, and orders being on time and in full. Suppliers would also appreciate their retailer partners to acknowledge areas where their efforts were exceptional, especially, when orders were met well above forecast (in some cases even five times above the original quantity).