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El Corte Inglés

It's just a big department store. A department store with a garage to service your car, a travel agent, an optician, a dry cleaners, a post office and a supermarket as well as all the usual department store departments but, when all is said and done it's just a big department store. On a World Wide scale it's not even a big retailer - about 40th - though it is the third biggest department store in the World after Sears and Macy's.

The name means The English Cut because the original business was based on a tailor's shop in Madrid. In style today's stores remind me of John Lewis's, though it doesn't unfortunately have the same "Never Knowingly Undersold" policy. It does though have smartly turned out sales staff who usually know their products and work in well lit, sparkling clean and generally good looking shops. The big difference though is that for Spaniards Corte Inglés isn't just another shop it really is an institution, a point of reference. In Spain it was Corte Inglés that introduced seasonal sales, large scale publicity campaigns, air conditioning, huge window displays, credit cards and computerised tills amongst other things.

Corte Inglés's sales have held up well despite the current problems for reatailers. They reckon it's because they have pumped money into advertising, promotions and new stores. I sometimes wonder if they pay people to carry their bags - nearly everyone seems to have one.


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