Spain’s only surviving mega department store has now got all permissions to start work on its latest shopping experience, the El Ejido Corte Inglés. The store will be four stories high (according to the plans) and will have a 7,500m2 supermarket as the ground floor. So adiós to Miguelito’s corner sweetie-shop.
The Corte Inglés used to have a competitor, Galerias Preciados, but this was owned by a rather nasty enemy of the first PSOE government after Franco kicked off, and Felipe Gonzalez’ government simply… expropriated it. There’s a rather full exposé of the giant shop at http://www.nodo50.org/elotropais/n3/corte.htm if you're interested.
It includes this quote from the president and main shareholder, Isidro Álvarez, "no hay quien pueda con nosotros" (‘no one can beat us’).
The chain eschews advertising in the foreign language press (except the Diario Del Sur’s ‘Sur in English’) and, is the kind of shop that, this reporter at least, tends to go to as little as possible, usually making a U-turn just after entry.
Practically every city in Spain has at least one Corte Inglés and Almería is quite put out that the province’s second city should have stolen the march to become the first one in this hitherto rather forgotten province (Almería City still hopes for its own outlet).
The last one built that I know of is the one in Pamplona’s old-town. This particular one is nine stories high and is executed, for some ghastly architectural reason, in grey iron chapa. ‘Hideous’ is an understatement.
The department store is a kind of Bourgeois status symbol, with millions of Spaniards going about visibly holding their iconic shopping bags with the green triangles on it (even if they contain produce from other cheaper commerces).
The great debate about El Corte Inglés - or for that matter WallMart, is whether a super-store like this adds convenience to the shopper or whether it freezes out the small commerce ‘down-town’. Like anywhere else, it’s a debate where the Shilling decides.