Sodimac Home Center and Constructor went below the surface to take home improvement shopping to new heights in Viña del Mar, Chile. In December, Sodimac opened its latest location on the underground floor of Kimco's Espacio Urbano Viña Centro shopping center. Underground stores are a growing trend in Chilean retail, where space is limited.

Sodimac joins Hiper Lider (Walmart) as the center's second anchor, which opened a few weeks prior. There's been a lot of excitement around the Viña del Mar area since Sodimac's opening, and it's continued into 2012, as several other retailers have opened locations in the center. You can see some of the energy and the foot traffic in these pictures we took at Espacio Urbano's grand opening celebration last week:

We also snapped some shots of the interior and exterior of Sodimac during a typical shopping day, so you can see what a shopping experience is like:

I've been getting a lot of questions about the new Sodimac and Kimco's Viña del Mar shopping center over the past several weeks. Here are answers to some of the most common questions, to help explain all the events happening down here lately:

Q: What kind of store is Sodimac?

A: Sodimac is a $4 billion home-improvement chain in South America. It's similar to Home Depot in the U.S. The retailer has over 100 stores in Chile (where it's based), Peru, Columbia, and Argentina. Sodimac is the largest store in our Viña del Mar shopping center. It's about 130,000 square feet, with distinct areas dedicated to consumers and small and mid-size contractors.

Q: Can you describe the Vina del Mar shopping center?

A: Vina del Mar is a coastal city, about two hours from Santiago. Our center is located downtown, two blocks from the main square. It consists of six levels-three for retail and three for parking, and has a GLA of 250,000 square feet. There are 55 stores in addition to the two anchors, Sodimac and Hiper Lider. The center was developed within the last two years, in partnership with Walmart Chile Real Estate division.

Q: What are some unique characteristics of the new Sodimac store?

A: One uncommon characteristic is that it's located underground. You walk into the center from the street level, and take an escalator downstairs to enter Sodimac. The shopping center was built on a 182,000 square feet piece of land in an area where the density is rapidly increasing. We had to fit two anchors, plus the other stores, and parking, so we chose to put Sodimac underground.

Q: Are underground stores, like this Sodimac one, fairly common in Chile?

A: They're becoming more common, for supermarkets as well. Many are on the first floor or underground floor of residential buildings.

Q: Why is there a demand for daily essential, home improvement stores in the Viña del Mar area?

A: Mainly because of the nature of the location. There are a lot of people living in the area and buying homes. We're also attracting people that work nearby, who can do their shopping after work. Additionally, we are located in front of the bus terminal for Viña del Mar, so we get all the bus traffic as well.

Q: What other tenants have recently opened or are planning to open soon in the Vina del Mar center?

A: McDonald's opened on the last day of 2011, and 16 other stores, including Sally Beauty, Todo Piel, Monarch, Caffarena, GMO, and Do It, opened in January. Doggis, Fritz, Telepizza, and Tarragona also opened in January in the food court. In the commercial gallery, we opened two big national pharmacies this year, Ahumada and Cruz Verde, as well as the optic store Rotter & Krauss. In total, we expect 20 stores to open in the first months of 2012.

Q: Is there any available space in the shopping center?

A: We have about 14,000 square feet available across 12 stores.

Q: What promotions or special events are coming up at the shopping center?

A: We held the grand opening of the center on Jan. 30. The celebration included a ribbon cutting ceremony with the local officials, a cocktail party, and concert put on by the popular local musician Americo on the upper level of the parking lot. In the coming weeks of the summer (yes, it's summer in Chile!), we will have a promotion where for every purchase made in the center, customers will be entered into a raffle for a new car.

Q: How would you say Chilean shopping centers compare to those in the U.S.?

A: Chile doesn't have as many suburban shopping centers located near freeways. Chilean shopping centers are more urban, located within the cities. We also build more vertically. You don't see big boxes spread out in large areas of land because the country is so narrow.

Q: What other shopping center trends are on your radar?

A: Mixed-use development is increasing, especially in urban areas. Chile is the one of the more retail-developed country in South America. Compared to countries like Peru, where it's easy to open supermarkets in the cities, Chile is already well-penetrated. Most new developments are popping up in infill locations, for which there is a lot of competition. Often the only way to enter the market is to partner with a residential or office developer, and be part of their mixed-use development. There are also a lot of nontraditional uses of shopping centers today, such as with colleges and medical centers. We're seeing more shopping centers with small medical centers, because it's convenient for families in the neighborhood to have a place to go other than the hospital for doctor appointments or vaccinations. In the case of colleges, more are located in regional malls, so students can study, shop, eat and park. It's a matter of improving convenience.

What questions do you have about the new Sodimac store, our plans for our Vina del Mar shopping center, or Chilean shopping centers in general?

  • CATEGORY: General
  • DATE: Thursday, February 9, 2012