A change in consumers' shopping habits since the start of the pandemic is believed to be the reason so many new supermarkets have opened in Malaga province recently: since April 2020 the biggest supermarket chains have opened around 50 new branches. Covirán now has eight more; Maskom, Mas and Carrefour have opened a further seven each (not counting the stores taken over from Supersol); Mercadona has added five; El Jamón, Aldi and Suma each have another four; and there are three new Lidl stores in the province.
Most of these are in Malaga city and large tourist resorts such as Torremolinos, Mijas, Fuengirola and Marbella, although a few have been in small inland towns.
To put this in context, last year the Supersol chain closed down and sold all its supermarkets to Carrefour, Maskom and El Jamón. Carrefour took over 48 of the stores, most of which have now been converted into Carrefour Market. Maskom bought four and El Jamón five.
The new supermarkets have created about 600 new jobs, with an average of 12 staff in each store. According to figures provided by the organisation that represents owners of foodstores, the Confederación Andaluza de Empresarios de Alimentación y Perfumería (CAEA), Malaga now has over 700 supermarkets belonging to large chains in total, employing around 13,000 people.
The director general of CAEA, Álvaro González Zafra, said that 70 per cent of grocery shopping is done in supermarkets, more than in larger hypermarkets, markets or even online.
In his opinion, the high percentage can be put down to their competitor advantage in terms of proximity, variety and prices.
"They are close to where people live, that's why 90 per cent of customers go to do their shopping on foot," he said.
Although new supermarkets have been opening up all over Andalucía since the pandemic began, Malaga has gained more than any other province in the region.
In 2021 two out of every ten new stores were in Malaga, and it is also proving popular for international chains that are opening in Andalucía for the first time.
One example is Costco, which is due to build a large unit in Malaga Nostrum retail park and is considering other towns as well. The British giant Tesco also opened its first store in Andalucía in Mijas early on in the pandemic.
Nevertheless, experts say that although Covid has changed people's buying habits, it is noticeable that supermarket sales rose sharply in 2020, when the bars were closed for most of the year, but stabilised in 2021, when they were open again and people had somewhere else to go and consume alcohol and soft drinks.