PEREIRA, Colombia -- When one of this country's largest wholesalers, Compania Granos, ventures into retailing for the first time in August, its first store here will be dressed to the nines in automation.
The store, a 106,000-square-foot superstore, will be equipped with a sophisticated point-of-sale system, including electronic cash registers and built-in bar-code scanners. In addition, electronic scales in various departments, including seafood and deli, will be hooked up to a master scale for efficient price changes.
The entire package of technology, imported from U.S. companies, is designed to provide Compania Granos with greater inventory control capabilities than is typically found in supermarkets here.
Micronix, a consulting firm that served as a U.S. liaison, worked closely with Granos through an affiliate company based here to find U.S. hardware and software suppliers for the store. About half of the store's square footage will be devoted to selling space, and half to warehousing and indoor parking.
"I don't think there is any other store in Pereira that would have this level of automation," said Enrique Salinas, president of Micronix, Miami. "I have seen stores that are even larger, especially in Bogota, Medellin, but very few of them have such automation."
Under the banner, "La Tienda Super Almacenes" (The Super Store), the store will dedicate about half its selling space to food and the remainder will feature clothing, hardware, linen, cosmetics, music and a drug store.
Compania Granos, a 30-year-old wholesale business, is owned by Pastor Augusto Morales and Luis Fernando Morales, who are brothers.
Pastor Morales said this coffee-growers region, located about three hours from metropolitan Cali, was a good place to start supermarket retailing. "Pereira is like the main city there, but there are other high population towns nearby that do not have any type of supermarket, and they would need to travel to Pereira," Salinas explained.
Through a translator, Pastor Morales told SN Global, "We saw the need in the area for this type of automated superstore. We were not in the retail arena at the time and we decided to develop the idea with a goal of establishing a nationwide chain."
Confident the store will be well received, the Morales brothers intend to expand rapidly. "Our plans include the opening in one and a half years of a second store in Cali, followed by Medellin and Bogota," Pastor Morales added.
Compania Granos worked with Postec S.A., Cali, an affiliate of Micronix that specializes in retail point-of-sale systems, to find U.S. suppliers. IPC Technolo
gies, Austin, Texas, supplied the POS equipment at the store's 24 checkout lanes; Interactive Software Products, Rockford, Ill., provided the multilingual, multicurrency software linked with a server running on UNIX.
Calling the store a "showcase" of retail automation, Salinas noted that such U.S. technology was not always available to this country of 33 million people. Though hypermarket-like retail formats are not uncommon here, sophisticated automation is just now making inroads.
Until about two years ago, the Colombian government maintained rigid regulations, blocking the import of foreign products.
"It had been pretty restrictive to import anything to Colombia for years," Salinas said. "[The government] had wanted the country to develop its own industry," and imposed high duties on imports for the past 20 years.