When Mexico began to open its markets in the 1980s, it became easier to buy certain foods and homeware items that before then weren’t available at all. Today, the retail landscapes in Mexico include US-style supermarkets, hypermarkets, membership discount emporiums, modern department stores, and a range of specialized retail outlets which cater to ‘foodies’ and the well heeled.
Product availability can vary
One of the quirky features of the Mexican retail space is the inconsistent availability of certain products, and this especially pertinent to imported food and drinks.
You might wander along the aisles of your local supermarket or membership store one day and discover, for the first time, a brand or product you enjoyed back home. You might also grimace at the price tag, and buy it anyway. When you go back to buy it again next month, it’s not there—and later realize that it never returns.
This ‘batch availability’ of imported foods is surprisingly common in Mexico, which is why seasoned foreign residents might purchase more than one in expectation of it not being available again—and consider the item as a treat. This can apply to anything: your favorite brand of peanut butter, a certain variety of chocolate bar, a gourmet food ingredient, and especially varieties of teas.
Specialist food and homeware stores in Mexico
Here is a list of stores in Mexico where you are most likely to find those goods and goodies you enjoyed buying in the USA, Canada, or Europe and of the kind you certainly won’t find at your local tiendita.
La Comer and Fresko
When Commercial Mexicana sold-off its supermarket chain to Soriana, it kept some of the larger stores and re-branded them to “La Comer.” These larger ‘hypermarkets’ offer food, drink, and a range of homeware products under one roof. The grocery aisles feature a ‘gourmet and imported goods’ section which displays an array of fancy and specialist foods and drinks—a ‘lite’ version of its City Market outlets, see below. La Comer has a sister-store named Fresko that offers virtually the same lines of products as La Comer in smaller stores and with a particular focus on fresh produce.
Owned by La Comer, City Market is a chic and up-scale gourmet purveyor of all things foodie and homestyle and is Mexico’s answer to Whole Foods in the US, or Waitrose in the UK. City Market stores also feature a café, a fresh sushi bar, and a gourmet ice-cream parlor.
Their stores are situated in Mexico City’s more exclusive neighborhoods and the company is gradually expanding this retail format into the provinces. Outside of the capital there are City Market stores located in Querétaro, Metepec, Cuernavaca, Guadalajara, San Miguel de Allende, and Monterrey.
In addition to the extensive ranges of gourmet and exotic foods available here, City Market also offers a ‘Spa’ section which further entices shoppers with fine soaps, bath salts and towels, as well as a range of aromatherapy products.
This is not somewhere you go looking for bargains, although the stocked ranges of specialist and imported foods and food ingredients as well as its selection of fine wines and imported liquors is substantial.
As the name suggests, La Europea is a specialist purveyor of imported goods offers a comprehensive choice of imported wines, liquors, and gourmet food products.
Established since 1957, the chain has moved with the times to offer an expanding range of products across its stores. La Europea has branches in many key cities across Mexico, and while you’ll often find things here not available elsewhere (except perhaps at the few branches of City Market), like City Market, it’s best not to cavil about the prices.
If you enjoy home cooking and all things kitchen, you’ll be pleased to learn that Williams-Sonoma, the American purveyor of high-end kitchen tools and cookware popular in the US, has opened stores in Mexico.
They offer in-store and online shopping, with free delivery and returns within 30 days. Their price tags are generally high, although they often run discount sales, some of which are significant and make their prices competitive with other online sellers. This store is ideal when you’re looking for a special gift, or ranges of specialized kitchenware of the kind you’re unlikely to find in other department stores.
The Texas-based HEB superstore stocks an ample range of American goods. HEB Mexico stores are principally based in the country’s north-eastern states, as well as Guanajuato and Aguascalientes, although they continue to expand and, if there’s an HEB locally where you live, you will be able to find an extensive range of imported food and homeware products here, including well-stocked fresh produce sections.
CostCo and Sam’s Club
CostCo and Sam’s Club are “Members Only” emporiums that require you to purchase an annual membership to spend your money at them. However, they do offer a wide choice of imported foods, drinks, and homeware goods, and through direct discounts or points that you accumulate as you buy (and later trade for other goods in-store), your annual membership may be returned when your shop here. Many foreign residents hold membership cards to one or both stores which are situated in towns and cities across Mexico.
The Home Store
A specialist homeware and lifestyle department store with branches in Mexico City as well as some of Mexico’s larger cities, The Home Store offers an impressive range of homeware items across various departments including bedroom, kitchen, dining room, and utility areas; it also offers ranges of complementary homeware products like interior décor, wellness, and home-style accessories.
This San Francisco-based upscale home furnishing and lifestyle accessories store has been operating in Mexico for a few years, with shops situated in some of Mexico City’s chic malls as well as a store operating in the city of León in the state of Guanajuato. Pottery Barn also has sister stores in Mexico which stock its archetypal furnishings and accessories aimed at kids and teens.
The ‘big three’ department stores
Liverpool, Palacio de Hierro, and Sears—Mexico’s three biggest department stores are also among Mexico’s biggest importers, and foreign residents often repair to one of these establishments to find products they want or need which they cannot find elsewhere. These department stores stock imported brands of fine foods, considerable ranges of homewares and furnishings, a wide assortment of domestic appliances, and clothes among many other things—and local prices vary from reasonable to cheeky in relation to prices for the same products sold in the USA.
Products you seek might be available through Amazon Mexico. Not everything that’s available in the USA, for example, will be available through Amazon Mexico, but the company is expanding its Mexican operations appreciably to offer ever-wider ranges of imported products on offer direct from Amazon’s warehouses in Mexico.
Items available only from Amazon abroad might not ship to Mexico and where they do, delivered prices are likely to be higher in part due to import duties, Mexico’s sales tax rate, and shipping costs—all of which add to the price of any items you order online which are delivered from outside Mexico.
If you subscribe to Amazon’s Mexico Prime Membership plan, you can obtain free delivery on a range of products (not all) shipped from Mexico as well as some shipped from the USA. (If you have an Amazon Prime subscription from overseas, it does not qualify you for free shipping to/in Mexico; you have to buy an Amazon Prime Mexico subscription.)
The cost of living in Mexico
The Mexperience Mexico Cost of Living Guide offers a comprehensive resource to help you to create a detailed budget for your finances in Mexico, based on your individual circumstances and lifestyle plans.
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