Miami: The fast-growing gateway to Latin America

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Miami: The fast-growing gateway to Latin America

By Mark Hamstra - 04/25/2018

Washington, D.C., might be the capital of the United States, but Miami is the unofficial capital of the Americas.

The Miami metropolitan area has a population of nearly 6.1 million, making it the eighth largest in the country. It is a densely populated market that stretches along the east coast of Florida — an area called the Gold Coast — in a long, narrow population strip between the Atlantic Ocean and the Everglades.

Its economy is largely driven by its status as a bridge between Latin America and the United States, and its population reflects its proximity to Central and South America and the Caribbean. Nearly half the population — about 41.6% — is Hispanic, and another 21% is African-American.

As a center for global trade, Miami also is home to the headquarters and regional branches of several large multinational corporations, and also is the headquarters for such Spanish-language media companies as Univision, Telemundo and UniMAS.

The metro area had a gross domestic product of $345.9 billion in 2017, making it 11th in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Florida overall added 195,000 jobs in 2017, and the Miami area was among the leaders in that growth, according to the state chamber of commerce. Job growth is expected to slow slightly in 2018, with about 180,000 new jobs statewide.

The state is expected to continue to see population growth. The state remains attractive as a destination for retirees, students and those seeking to take advantage of the lack of income tax, with 898 people per day moving to the state, according to the Florida chamber of commerce.

“Growth is important to retail, and the things I always look at are whether people are moving there and whether tourists are going there,” John Crossman, CEO of real estate firm Crossman & Co., said. “I don’t know of an engine that’s bigger than Miami on both those fronts.”

In addition to being a draw for high-income tourists, the Miami market also has been attracting a lot of top talent fresh out of business school, he said.

“If you are a retailer looking to grow, and you are looking at Florida, Miami is going to be on your radar,” Crossman said.

Local observers said the trend toward building residential developments in urban office centers is attracting younger consumers who are seeking such amenities as food and drug retail outlets in the areas where they live and work.

CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens have fairly even shares of the Miami metro market, according to a 2015 research report from Barclays Capital. Miami was the launch site of Hispanic-focused CVS Pharmacy y Más, which now has 14 area locations. The launch came a year after the Woonsocket, R.I.-based chain acquired Miami’s Navarro Discount Pharmacy, which had been the largest Hispanic-owned drug store chain in the country. Rite Aid does not have a presence in the market.

Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix — Miami’s fourth-largest private employer behind the University of Miami and two large hospitals — is a perennial growth leader in the consumable retail market. It is seeing increasing competition, however, from such specialty chains as Boulder, Colo.-based Lucky’s Market, a low-priced natural and organic specialist that has opened three locations in the area in the last few years as part of an aggressive push into Florida.

Miami is a significant market for BJ’s Wholesale, which has nine area warehouse clubs, and last year Costco opened a new location in the city.

Florida remains a stronghold for Walmart, which operates several Supercenters and Neighborhood Markets in the Miami area.