Checking Out: Martin Perez

The master builder of Liverpool department stores talks about retail in Mexico and the secrets to succeeding in this thriving consumer market.
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Posted July 31, 2012

The first thing everyone wants to know is: How did a Mexican retailer get the name Liverpool?
The founder, Jean Baptiste Ebrard, started selling imported European apparel out of wooden boxes on the streets of Mexico City in 1847. The goods were shipped from the port of Liverpool and arrived in Mexico with PORT OF LIVERPOOL stamped on the crates.

How did those wooden boxes become a department store?
As the business thrived, Ebrard moved his stand to an indoor bazaar in downtown Mexico City. The first department store was built in 1936.

And 165 years later, you’re thriving and expanding. What’s your secret sauce?
Our slogan is, “We’re a part of your life.” The brand has an emotional connection to Mexicans. Our older clients remember when their parents took them to Liverpool to buy toys and ride the carousel in our store. They remember it as a fun family weekend activity. So when those kids were getting married, they went to Liverpool to submit their wedding gift list. Our bridal registry is the largest in Mexico. Now, as grandparents, they shop at our toy departments for their grandkids.

As Liverpool’s director of store planning, you’ll be talking about your newest flagship store, in Interlomas, at IRDC in September. How does this location fulfill that brand promise?
In a couple of ways. Most Latin cities are built around a central square or plaza. So we built this store with lots of common space to meet, stroll, sit, play. Also, Mexican families plan many of their activities around dining. So we have rooftop dining ringed by a terrace, gardens, trees and great views of the surrounding hills.

Those cultural and social factors are really as much a part of the design as the materials and layout, aren’t they?
You can’t just build a store. You have to understand human activity. It’s not only about design and construction, it’s about behavior, psychology, even art.

How is the Mexican retail market growing to support Liverpool’s ambitious growth plan?
Our economy is healthy. The GDP is up, inflation and unemployment are down. The middle class now accounts for about 55 percent of the population. And so a lot of our smaller cities are in great need of shopping options. We’re branching out from our three largest cities, Mexico City, Monterey and Guadalajara. And the people are welcoming us. It gives them a certain status. I go to construction sites, and the local people ask me, “What took you so long to get here?”