Tiny Walmarts Take Bodega Form, Invade Mexico

For several years now, we’ve followed the proliferation of tinier and tinier Walmarts across the American retailscape. From the supermarket-sized Walmart Hometown stores to the gas station and convenience store called Walmart To Go, the retailer has experimented with store formats that are not enormous. Now the Tiny Walmart Menace has spread to Mexico, where its mini-grocery chain called Bodega Aurrera Express hopes to use low prices to draw customers.

People in Mexico have this pesky habit of buying their food from street vendors, non-yuppie farmer’s markets, and small family-owned grocers. These are all places that are not Walmart, so in 2008 the company began using Aurrera, the name of a grocery chain that it had acquired, as a brand for urban markets that imitate and compete with the corner stores.

The company is expanding into small-format stores for a very pragmatic reason: crowded cities and towns are where low-income people are in Mexico. The bodegas are successful, but shoppers interviewed by the Wall Street Journal appeared to be buying typical big-box store items like potato chips and shampoo inside the Bodega Aurrera Express, but shopping at the outdoor street market, a “tianguis,” for their food, especially meat and produce. People are accustomed to the tianguis. This is how it has always been in Mexico,” explained one vendor.

For Wal-Mart in Mexico, Bodega Format Trumps Big Box [Wall Street Journal]