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'The region made the biggest gains in an annual ranking of the top 30 emerging countries for retail development, according to a report by management consulting firm A.T. Kearney. That improvement puts four South American countries in the top 10 for the first time, said Hana Ben-Shabat, a New York-based partner at A.T. Kearney who started the ranking 10 years ago.'


'Uruguay is “riding Brazil’s coattails” as it approaches the peak of its window of opportunity for investment, according to A.T. Kearney. Almost 95 percent of the population has easy access to urban areas where modern retailing prospers. The country’s physical size -- among the smallest in South America - - is appealing to retailers that want to test concepts before entering other regional markets, Ben-Shabat said.

For Uruguay, a strengthening middle class with healthy disposable income and a population concentrated in the capital of Montevideo are appealing for retail investment, Tuesta said. Still, foreign companies may find it difficult to open a large operation in this country of about 3.3 million people unless they’re interested in a regional strategy, he said.'


'“Chile has a strong retail market with a large, city- centered customer base that appreciates casual American style,” Laban said. “Substantial opportunity exists for us in South America and we are exploring other markets in the region.”

With a population of almost 16.9 million, Chile has become one of the region’s promising retail markets, driven by government incentives to stimulate consumption, increased middle-class disposable income and an urban population, according to the A.T. Kearney report. Retailing in Chile, which places consistently among the index’s Top 10, is projected to grow 10 percent in 2011, the authors said.'


'With a comparably younger population -- the median age is 26.2 years old -- and potential for more urbanization, Peru will grow even faster than Chile and Uruguay, Tuesta said. He projects that GDP growth will stabilize at about 6.5 percent in the next five years after fluctuating between 0.2 percent and 9.8 percent in the past decade.

The government has historically “gone out of its way” to grant benefits to foreign investment, though investors have been concerned that President-elect Ollanta Humala, who assumes office today, may not be as business-friendly as his predecessor, Tuesta said.'
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