Tuesday 8 June 2010

Manzanas y Naranjas.

By Richard Morley.

Is it because Spain’s largest chain of department stores, El Corte Inglés, has the word “Inglés” in its name that it insists on using the English language in its advertising? Like last year, this year’s hot weather fashion is being introduced on hoardings with the word, “Summertime” prominently displayed. Now that the hot weather seems to have arrived to stay, after all, the fortieth of May will be here in a matter of hours, the store is attempting to sell us its range of cooling devices under the heading of “FANtastico”. A half decent pun in English, but an electric fan in Spanish is a ventilador. The semi-circular flappy thing that women use to cool themselves and dance flamenco is called an abanico.
So how much of the passing public get the joke?

As my lawyer friend suggests, is El Corte Inglés trying to attract the “posh” Madrileños by using a foreign language. I pondered this a year ago. Meanwhile there are better bargains to be found in any Chinese shop in town. My €14 pole mounted electric fan is serving me well into its third year and is less than half the price anything ECI sells.

But while the big shops have to entice us in with never-ending promotions and sales, something only seen at select times a few years ago, one group of retailers in Madrid are going from strength to strength: Fruit shops.

It seems this is definitely a fruitful area of trade. Over the last four years sales of fresh fruit have increased ten per cent each year. According to the “Confederación de Empresarios Minoristas de Madrid” and the “Asociación de Empresarios Detallistas de Fruta de Madrid”, who call themselves “Adefruta”, the city now has more than four thousand of small, independent fruit sellers.

Green grocery is hard work with long hours, so it is perhaps telling that according to this report the vast majority of the owners of these shops are immigrants. Alejandro González of Adefruta makes the point that the cost of capital equipment is low and so is an ideal start-up business for those with not much money. Run by Chinese, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis they also open early, don’t close for siesta, and stay open until late, something my local Spanish run fruit shop fails to do!

Luis Pacheco, director of my favourite fruit and veg shop, Gold Gourmet, (at the cheap end of José Ortega y Gassett,) which does stay open all day, claims that Madrileños are very concerned with the quality of the fruit they buy and are conscious of the benefits to their health. To demonstrate this, statistics show that the population now consumes 11.7% more fruit and vegetables than the rest of Spain.

I sometimes wonder about people who collect statistics! The detail! Now I know that on average we spend €1500 a year on food. Of that €146 is spent on fruit and veg, €360 on meat and €212 on fish. So we are a long way from a vegetarian society yet!

And I also would bet good money that it is the expats that buy most of that fruit.

I wonder what we spend the other €782 on!

Feel free to comment below.


  1. Do we want to be a vegetarian society? I've nothing against them (indeed, I was one when I was a student and moved on from that to dabble in macrobiotics (a diet that damn nearly killed me)). But some friends of mine used to run a business involved in teaching a certain language to certain people, and after a few years they refused to hire veggies because they spent so much time off sick. Not saying fruit & veg are bad for you, but I do think a lack of meat is.

  2. I don't really understand either about using the English language in those big department stores (or in other)since not many Spanish people still speak or understand English, we should ask their publishing and marketing employees the reasons about it or perhaps the reason is that it is only focused on tourists visiting El Corte Ingles....... Hugs!

  3. No less than three new greengrocers have opened in the street near me in the last six weeks or so. Makes me very happy - I no longer have to go to Mercadona for my fruit and veg, who only seem to sell pre-packaged (frequently pre-chopped/diced/sliced) veg, in packs of no less than, for instance, 5 onions.

    I now happily swing by any one of the independent ones every other day, picking up one onion, a couple of small potatoes etc etc, whatever I need for a day or so. Though I did get a slightly strange look last week when I popped in for just 2 mushrooms. I think they were almost inclined to just give them to me as it must have cost more in electricity to use the electric scales and open the till, than the 9 cents I had to pay!

    Still, as a vegetarian (who has only had one sick day in 16 months), I love this new trend!

  4. I didn't know that we spend so much on beer and wine...!!!

  5. I think you would loose your money if you think the ex-pats buy most of the fruit. Fruit is the standard dessert for Spaniards at home.