General Merchandise: Rise of Ethnic Goods in New Places

There’s been a few major shifts over the last decade, that are making many of the industry’s players look towards a future that seems to be blurring the lines between manufacturing, wholesale, retail, and everything in between. The spread of ethnic goods in new and unexplored markets is also creating opportunities for dealers who want to make the connection, and share some foreign flavors with consumers around the world.

Some of these changes have already manifested themselves in the launch of sites that cater to easier and faster global B2B and B2C exchanges, as well as the growing push for dropshipping to make home-based online retailer’s dreams a reality. There’s also a renewed drive in many markets to make smaller stores an integral part of the selling environment, when they can pick up market share that the bigger stores are unable to sustain.

Changes come in some surprising forms, like in downtown Crete, where there is a rising number of stores that carry Hispanic foods and products that appeal to a large number of people with needs beyond what the local shops offer.

There are over ten distinctly separate businesses catering to this niche market in Crete today, and all signs point to expansion in the coming months. Assorted general merchandise goods like piñatas, dried shrimp, rice water, traditional baked goods, and other authentic Hispanic items can all be found.

These are businesses that come in the form of restaurants, grocery stores and general merchandise stores, with even a giant like Wal-Mart following the lead, as the global retail outlet also has its own selection of Hispanic food products available to shoppers.

One problem for the superstore, however, is that the sheer size of the operation doesn’t allow it to be competitive with the smaller stores who have the freedom to make changes and decisions  at a moment’s notice.

Family stores located nearby are making the most of this advantage, even painting the outsides in themed colors of red, white, and green. One can even hear the sounds of a Spanish television station on the satellite feed, which adds a soundtrack of foreign ethnicity to a simple retail setting – and adding an experience that lends exotic appeal to shoppers who want to try new things. Small restaurants add to the overall image, with every guest finding a basket of chips and small dishes of salsa in front of them, as the waiters bring menus.

This phenomenon is not limited to tree-lined tourist areas in downtown Crete. Retailers and wholesalers alike are paying close attention to the growing trend of creating ethnic experiences for locals who have reached a point of increasing consumerism, but haven’t yet found the means for world travel. In countries like China, this is especially true, and other outlying areas that surround the enormous Asian continent also play a vital role in this expansion as well.

Hot spots to watch are the villages in India that have begun to pick up speed, as well as countries in Central and South America. While Hispanic goods in Crete are creating a stir across the ocean, it stands to reason that European and Asian goods will be doing the same in Latin American countries as well.

Author:  Rueben Marley

Based out of China since 2006, Rueben Marley has a unique and first-hand perspective on what's shaping the industry today. Learn more about Rueben's career by visiting his Linkedin profile at

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