“If you build it, they will come,” intoned actor Kevin Costner in the 1989 film “Field of Dreams.” In the context of the Costa Rican construction industry, Costner might have paraphrased that: If you promote it, they will ask for it.
It’s been all about advertising. Then awareness and demand follow, say the experts.
The previous “build it for me at the lowest cost” attitude of Costa Rican consumers is changing, a function of increased awareness and availability.
The no-frills approach was one that retailers historically took, too, says Lorraine Michaud, marketing director of the Papagayo Do It Center (672-2032,www.papagaydoitcenter.com) in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.
“What retailers failed to realize is that no matter who the consumer is, or what their income level, (they) want quality products that will last,” she explains.
The traditional lack of availability meant that the consumer settled for lower-quality construction materials, especially in underserved parts of the country outside the metropolitan area.
Michaud credits DirecTV and cable television, especially in far-flung areas of Costa Rica, with fueling an awareness of what’s available and a subsequent demand for highquality products.
Take ceiling fans. While in the past, consumers might have settled for little-known brands, they now see names such as Westinghouse or Hunter on television and ask for them, Michaud says.
“Both decorative and functional” are the construction-material requisites that Mario José Crespo of Ferretería EPA (588-1145, www.epa.co.cr, Curridabat, next to IndoorCenter; San Rafael de Escazú, 400 meters east of tollbooth) often hears these days.
Steel bars used for fences and window grates, a standard security fixture in Costa Rican homes, don’t have to be so plain, Crespo says. Laminated asphalt roof shingles can be decorative and easy to install as well as serving their utilitarian function of providing insulation.
Pre- and post-sale service has become the customer’s minimal expectation, Crespo says. Iron and wood materials needs to be cut to the client’s needs, pieces need to be fitted and adjusted. The sophisticated customer insists on more than the traditional Costa Rican business model, that of walking into the neighborhood hardware store and ending the transaction with the exchange of cash for goods.
Convenience and accessibility has been another growing trend in the field. Construplaza (215-3000, www.construplaza.co.cr, Guachipelín de Escazú) kicked off the all-under-one-roof superstore concept in Costa Rica in 2002.
The opening of the Papagayo Do It Center between the northwestern hub city of Liberia and the northern Pacific beaches followed in late 2003. There was no longer a need for Guanacaste residents to travel four hours to San José to find construction and home-furnishing materials, Michaud says.
EPA got into the game with a 6,000-square-meter, 16-department store in the eastern suburb of Curridabat last year. A branch opened in May in the western suburb of Escazú.
Papagayo Do It Center is expanding the convenience concept this year with the opening of an adjoining commercial plaza housing several construction-related businesses in one location. Not only are the materials available for purchase at the original Do It Center itself, but the adjacent spaces in the plaza house real estate, finance, construction and property management offices