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Endangering Buenos Aires' chic avenue?
Endangering Buenos Aires' chic avenue?

BUENOS AIRES - For some people, it’s a powerful sign of the crisis in the luxury market in Argentina. For others, it’s more a sign of the frivolity and stupidity of the Argentine elite – the opening of a Chinese supermarket on the Avenida Alvear, Buenos Aires’s most prestigious shopping street, has roiled passions.

The Lin family, the owners of the newly-opened store and four other similar supermarkets in the Argentine capital, saw an opportunity when luxury brand Escada announced that it would leave Argentina and vacate a 200-square-meter storefront right next to the mythic Jockey Club, a historic center for local aristocrats.

The fact that a Chinese supermarket has taken the luxury brand’s place is an affront to many of the locals, in a city that likes to brag that it is the Paris of South America.

Yolanda Duran, the spokesperson for the Chamber of Commerce for the Development of Argentina and Southeast Asia, confirms that many of the neighbors have asked that “the chic nature of the avenue be respected.” No doubt that chic nature would be endangered by cartons of vegetables and delivery trucks. But she says that is ridiculous in a city that already has around 2,000 Chinese supermarkets, which occupy a niche in the shopping world between large chain stores and small kiosks.

In the end, whether or not there is a Chinese supermarket there will depend on whether or not the Lin family can pay the $10,000 monthly rent that the storefront commands. Or if there is a better offer. The irony, though, is that although the Escada Group is formed by 17 companies and controlled by Escada Luxembourg, the company is owned by the Mittal family – it was purchased years ago by Megha Mittal, the daughter of Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal. So really, the difference is only that a Chinese entrepreneur is replacing an Indian one.

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