The Central America retail market boasts an active retail sector where international brands thrive and development of shopping centers continues to expand at rapid pace. The Central America Retail Market is small when compared to South America or when looked at on a individual country basis. This dynamic changes and becomes an interesting proposition when considered as a trading block, which can be easily handled from a hub in Panama or Costa Rica. Walmart is the largest retailer in Central America, with more than 550 stores located in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
The Central America population reached 44 million in 2011 (Guatemala 14.8 million, Honduras 7.7 million, El Salvador 7.2 million, Nicaragua 5.9 million, Costa Rica 4.6 million, Panama 3.5 million, and Belize 314,000). Regional GDP output picked up momentum in 2011, particularly in the Central America, Panama, and the Dominican Republic (CAPDR) region during the first half of the year. Output expanded by about 4½ percent fueled by domestic demand, increased agricultural exports, and a bounce-back in remittances; however, deteriorating global conditions may present future, uneven implications for the region, which has strong real links to the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
The biggest public concern in Central America is the security issue, which is mostly related to drug and gang activity. Governments in the region, for the most part lack the wherewithal, both in terms of police forces and finances with which to fight the increasing power of organized crime.
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