Local Supermarket Closure Highlights the New Ibiza

Casa Alfonso to Close
The closure of Casa Alfonso supermarket in San Antonio has been met by much sadness from the local community with some even suggesting it’s another nail in the Ibiza coffin.
Casa Alonso was a family run business in the heart of San Antonio, part shop, part delicatessen, part meeting point. It had been open for over 100 years but as a medium size supermarket it found itself stuck between the big boys of Mercadona & Lidl and the small specialists who serve specific areas.
For years this type of small family business was protected by a local law that meant it was forbidden for big national chains to open in Ibiza but this was changed a few years ago so the Island became fair game for the big names to come and open their football pitch sized businesses.
Decathlon opened as did Zara and Mango. Mercadona and Lidl also hit the island hard opening in multiple locations. With all the new competition certain businesses struggled. Sports shops were especially hit hard as Decathlon had everything under one roof plus plenty of staff on hand to help out.
The locals, who had previously had to fly to Barcelona, Madrid or Palma, lapped it up after years of having to shop at small local stores with not a great amount of choice, higher prices than the mainland and that famous Ibiza level of service.
Some businesses changed their strategy. The La Sirena and Art stores for example, went from selling cheap sports gear with some tacky souvenirs thrown in to offering more quality brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Guess, Quiksilver and Billabong. They went from sports shop to lifestyle boutique and didn’t even stop for breath while the ones who carried on selling cheap sportswear were closed within a year as Decathlon do an industrial scale.
For every success there’s also a failure but that’s business for you, especially retail with so many fighting for your money. Adapt or die, find a way, survival of the fittest, use any cliche you want, the business jungle is a tough place all over the world but on a seasonal island it’s especially ruthless where numbers go through the roof for only 100 days a year.
I’ve seen it myself first hand. In 1999 I opened Ibiza Travel Shop specialising in last minute flights buying at £50 and selling af £99. We had unbelievable growth until the internet decided that everyone could become their own travel agent. Out went handwritten flight tickets and high margins and in came full transparency with no place to ‘hide’ the profit. We went from glory to closure inside 5 years.
It was a harsh lesson but the market changes and you have to diversify at worst and preempt at best. If you think you can carry on doing the same old thing forever then you will get a rude awakening at some point and Ibiza is no different.
The modern day Ibiza now has Decathlon, Mercadona, Lidl, Zara with more to come. They here employ many local people using many local products. It’s also worth mentioning that Leroy Merlín has recently closed down. Competition is competition no matter what your size.
The bottom line was that the law that protected local business also removed competition and created monopolies with poor service. I for one took great exception to my choice being limited not because of market forces but because of self serving laws.
Of course it’s a shame that a small and friendly family business at the heart of San Antonio is closing down but it’s also another example that Ibiza is now fully integrated into the real world where you have to constantly improve and diversify or ultimately fail.

Author: Martin Makepeace

Englishman living and working in Ibiza since 1991. Entrepreneur with a passion for villas, boats, sunsets and San Antonio. Read my blogs, listen to my podcasts and catch me on Radio One Mallorca every Tuesday morning.

4 thoughts on “Local Supermarket Closure Highlights the New Ibiza”

  1. I think Mercadona and Lidl have breathed life into the island. Spanish service has always been appallingly slow.

    How many times have you waited in a ferretería, restaurant or small shop waving your money around, begging to be served or even noticed? And god help you if you’re behind two locals who haven’t seen each other in a while in a bank!

    No amigo, bring on a B&Q, Screwfix, or Jewsons as quick as you like.


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