What is a Pulperia? And why we need one
A pulperia is
basically a general store located inside of a private home. The
one difference is that the customers do not enter the home, instead they
go up to a special window where they tell the attendant what they wish
to buy, and the attendant gathers up the items, passes them through the
window and collects payment. Pulperias are very common, just from
my estimation, probably 1 in 20 houses outside of major cities serves a
pulperia. There is almost always at least one every two blocks,
and sometimes there are multiple pulperias on a single block.
The need for pulperias is the fact that almost nobody has cars in
Nicaragua so traveling to a super market is time consuming and
impractical. The economy is built around pulperias with even the
smallest of them having multiple deliveries from many different
vendors. For instance, both Coke and Pepsi deliver to every
pulperia, usually weekly if not twice a week. Other companies such
as snack foods or household supplies also distribute directly to pulperias.
Pulperias can be substantially profitable businesses, most are
not. Because there is no business license associated with having a
pulperia and taxes do not need to be paid until you achieve sales way
higher than most pulperias ever get, most pulperias are treated by their
owners as an afterthought. Inventory controls, merchandising and
customer service are usually horrible. For instance, it is not
unusual to leave your house needing to buy five common items, but having
to visit three different pulperias to find all of your items.
Most pulperias frequently run out of certain products. At the same
time, almost no effort goes into what most people would consider normal
merchandising. You almost never can see even half of what the
pulperia offers and there is certainly no thought on the owners part of
displaying ´oh yeah, I need that´ items or impulse-buy items. The
final thing lacking is usually customer service, this comes mainly in
the form of unclear prices or store hours. It is almost normal to go to
your nearby pulperia and have the husband charge you one price for an
item, and the next day the wife charge you a different price.
And so why do we need to have our own pulperia? There are actually
a few reasons, but probably the main one is the deliveries.
Having a home with 20 residents, each of which would need basic
household items including soap, laundry detergent, toothpaste and
diapers is a logistical nightmare and would either require large
shopping trips to a super market, or else very frequent hunting
expeditions to pulperias. Other than having the items delivered to
the house on a weekly basis, we would also be getting them at wholesale
prices. ( usually 10% discount).
The second major reason is because of the educational opportunity it
gives us with the mothers. As I said, well-run pulperias that
concentrate on inventory control, merchandising and customer support can
be very profitable and usually in most villages, the richest home is
the one with the business-minded pulperia. So with that said, even
if you discount all of the organic farming stuff from our project, if
we can teach nothing but how to manage a pulperia correctly, that mother can then go on to have a successful business.
The next reason is that pulperias are profitable. While we will be
using large amounts of our own inventory, even still we should be able
to break even or make a profit. If we can keep a large variety of
inventory, never run out of products, design the display area to promote
up-selling and keep consistent hours we should quickly become one
of the more popular pulperias in town. Basically if we can sell
90% and use only 10% of the items that are delivered, it means that our basic household items are free.
Finally the pulperia will give us another tier of selling for our
vegetables. In general, we view the vegetables on different levels
depending on the price we can sell them. The highest end crops
will go to customers via home deliveries. The next level, and the bulk
of sales will be to hotels, resorts and restaurants and then also
farmer´s markets in expat communities. These first two groups of
customers have guaranteed ´delivered today, harvested today'
freshness. But once that day is over, the pulperia now gives us a
way to sell our vegetables at a cheaper price to local customers.
Generic garden vegetables like tomatoes, onions and peppers are some of
the fastest selling items at pulperias and many do not have access to
even sell them. Always having these common vegetables will also
lead to higher sales of delivered products as customers become aware
that we always have everything that need.