Insight Breakfast – Panama: Latin America’s Emerging Retail Hotspot

On Thursday 18th October, we invited Walpole members to join us in the stunning surrounds of Mossiman’s private dining club in Belgravia to feast on a sumptuous breakfast of freshly baked pastries and smoked salmon, before being treated to a fascinating insight into one of the world’s fastest-growing emerging markets: Panama.
HM Ambassador to Panama, Michael John ‘MJ’ Holloway OBE, and Romel Adames, the Director Trade & Industry British Embassy, Panama spoke passionately about this important Latin America central hub - and its strategic location as a luxury retail destination for the region.  
They also shared a very exciting opportunity for all our member brands. SOHO, a visionary and unique mixed-use space in the heart of Panama City, is searching for high-end, luxury retail partners to join the project. Strategically located, it is an important setting for trade and business, accommodating both commercial and pleasurable experiences in a single complex. SOHO promises to become a central landmark in Panama thanks to its modern design and high quality. For more information, please contact Romel Adames on, or on (507) 6678 0185.
Below, we share with you an overview of the presentation on Panama – which paints a very compelling picture of a country which is – until now – perhaps best known for its canal, tailor, and a certain canoeist…
Some top-line facts:
• Panama is the fastest-growing country in Latin America, expanding by 10.6% last year
• Panama is second most competitive country in Latin American according to the World Economic Forum
• Panama is the region’s emerging logistics hub – its Singapore – with an unrivalled distribution network and connectivity
Panama is Latin America’s fast-emerging hotspot for shopping. It is the number one tourist destination for Colombians and Venezuelans, and large numbers of visitors from Brazil, Ecuador and Costa Rica come to take advantage of Panama’s world-class malls. The presence of huge multinational firms supports an international clientele with discerning tastes.
Growth of tourist numbers is forecast to rise dramatically. Last year Panama attracted over two million visitors, the majority middle to high-income South Americans (46%), North Americans (29%) and Europeans (10%). 430,000 arrived on cruise ships. New hotels opening include the Trump Tower, Hard Rock, Waldorf Astoria, Ritz Carlton, Hilton Tower, W Hotel – all building new skyscrapers to accommodate.
Income distribution is highly skewed toward an economically powerful upper class. Brand-awareness is high, thanks to its naturally outward-looking people and history as an international crossroads. An estimated 40,000 Venezuelans living in Panama, many of which are high net worth individuals that have sought refuge from Chavez rule.
Tocumen International Airport is the home of Copa Airlines, the only carrier to fly to all Latin American capitals and with 65 destinations in total. There are shopping opportunities in the airport, currently undergoing a huge expansion, where sales are currently $200m per year. Five million passengers used the airport last year – forecast to triple to fifteen million by 2015. The number of passengers increased 21% during this year.
Panama is a sophisticated transport distribution centre. The Colon Free Trade Zone is the second largest in the world after Hong Kong. The incentives on offer and world-class logistics services have attracted companies like Adidas, Payless and Diageo to establish their regional distribution headquarters.
Panama is home to some of the finest malls in Latin America:
• Grupo Roble’s Multiplaza will expand to 100,000 square metres this November, with 45,000 visitors daily. Of 300 stores, 200 are single brand. Annual sales total $400m. Louis Vuitton has its third most successful store in Latin America after Brazil and Mexico, whilst Cartier has its second
• Grupo WISA is creating SOHO (please see above), which will be Panama’s most exclusive mall from 2013. The $360m investment will create 120 stores over 40,000 square metres, with an onsite Ritz Carlton hotel and Panama’s biggest casino. Burberry has already committed to open there
• At 1km long, Albrook, Panama’s biggest mall, receives an average of 60,000 visitors per day. The brand new Metro Mall and Multicentro add to the range of shopping options
Many of the world’s most famous brands are already in Panama, including Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Bulgari, Burberry, Givenchy and Ralph Lauren.