For builders, Expo offers one-stop shopping

June 1, 2012

From the print edition

Expoferretera Costa Rica, an annual all-things-hardware and automotive exposition, is coming to the Centro de Eventos Pedregal in Belén, Heredia, north of San José. The event kicks off today and will run through Sunday.

Organizers expect more than 80 construction, hardware and materials businesses to occupy some 200 stands in the 5,600-square-meter event center.

Now in its 14th iteration, Expoferretera is the hardware and construction supply industry’s largest exposition in Costa Rica. Company representatives will offer energy-saving devices, organizational ideas, automotive products, electrical supplies, construction tools, painting accessories, security systems and more. Activities include a concert Saturday night, a mechanical bull, crafts for kids, product demonstrations and a foosball tournament. Car exhibitions, an airbrushing demonstration and a vehicle-accident simulation will also take place.

On Monday, Expoferretera organizers held a press conference to discuss the state of the industry in Costa Rica.

“The group [of businesses] that make up this sector is business-oriented and believes Costa Rica can be made better,” said Expoferretera President Karl Hempel.

There are currently some 1,450 points of sale for hardware and construction materials in Costa Rica, Hempel said. About 55 percent of them are located either in San José or Alajuela, northwest of the capital, with the rest distributed across the country.

 In 2011, the sector imported more than $1.7 billion worth of goods, mostly from the United States, followed by Mexico, Chile and China. Hempel noted, however, that a general slump in the construction industry has affected the hardware-sales market.

In 2008, more than 700,000 square meters of new construction were built in Costa Rica, but that number fell to less than 500,000 square meters in 2009. In 2011, approximately 600,000 square meters of new construction were built.

Besides being subject to fluctuations in the construction market, hardware distributors are facing other setbacks. In a survey of 50 hardware businesses in Costa Rica, 55 percent indicated that a lack of easy access to financing was the major problem confronting the sector. High competition in a market with a relatively small number of clients was identified as the second most pressing problem, and complex bureaucracy at the municipal level for opening new businesses or locations came in third.

The same survey indicated that most folks in the hardware- and construction-materials industry believe a reduction of taxes on materials would be the best help the government could give the sector. Hardware store operators would also like to see banks offer more lines of credit, streamlined processes for authorizing housing bonds and a reduction in the procedural time needed to open new locations.

Hempel said the industry sees room for growth in the automotive sector. Costa Rica’s poorly maintained highways and more than 1.6 million vehicles driving on them mean stores stocking automotive supplies have a national fleet of customers in need of near-constant service. Added to that, Hempel said, import taxes on vehicles are high enough to prohibit a large influx of new cars into the country, meaning maintenance and upkeep of older models is an important market for distributors of automotive supplies and tools. Automotive supplies already make up more than 15 percent of the majority of hardware and construction supply businesses’ inventories in Costa Rica, Hempel said.

Expoferretera runs from 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sunday. Entrance is 2,000 ($4), but those who register online at www.expoferretera.com or text 2231-6722, extension 146 or 123, will receive a code for free entry when presented at the gate.

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