We provide a guide to shopping at Exito in Medellín and Colombia with tips to save money. Grupo Exito is one of the largest retail companies in Latin America and it’s the largest retail company in Colombia. In addition, the company is the largest grocery store chain in Colombia.

A large Exito store in Colombia is very similar to a Super Walmart store in the United States. Both sell groceries and both sell many other non-food items like electronics, appliances, clothing and bed and bath items.

Outside entrance to the Exito at Los Molinos mall in Belén

Outside entrance to the Exito at Los Molinos mall in Belén

History of Exito

Grupo Éxito traces its start to a Medellín, Colombia family run textile business, which was founded in 1949 by Gustavo Toro Quintero. This business was named after the Spanish word for success (Éxito). And in 1972 it transitioned into a hyper-mart business and later expanded with more locations.

But the history of the company goes back even further as it also owns the Carulla grocery store chain, which was started in Bogotá by José Carulla Vidal in 1905.

The company went public in Colombia in 1994 and the company trades on the Colombian stock exchange. In 2011, the company expanded in South America by acquiring Grupo Disco and Grupo Devoto in Uruguay. And in 2015, the company acquired Libertad in Argentina and an 18.8 percent share of Grupo Pão de Açúcar in Brazil.

At the end of Q2 2018, the company had a total of 1,536 stores in Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Also, the company has a real estate business that builds shopping malls like the Viva Envigado mall, which is the largest in Colombia.

And at the end of Q3 2018, the company had a total 549 stores in Colombia using the Exito, Carulla, Surtimax, Super Inter and Surti Mayorista brands.

The busy Exito on opening day of the La Central mall in Medellín

The busy Exito on opening day of the La Central mall in Medellín

Exito in Medellín

Exito is the largest supermarket chain in Colombia that also sells appliances, electronics, clothes, home furnishings, kitchen items, and many other things.

In addition, the company has the highest market share out of the grocery store chains in Colombia. But don’t expect to find as big of a selection of groceries at Exito stores as you will find in big grocery stores in the U.S.

Exito Express store at Punto Clave mall in Medellín

Exito Express store at Punto Clave mall in Medellín

Exito has 26 of its large-format grocery stores in the Medellín metro area, which also sell non-food products. It also has many smaller local markets known as Exito Express.

The Carulla store in El Tesoro Mall

The Carulla store in El Tesoro Mall

Exito Owns Carulla

Carulla is an upscale supermarket chain in Colombia, which is owned by Grupo Exito. In Medellín, Carulla has 10 grocery stores including one in El Tesoro Mall and one in Oviedo Mall. Also, Carulla has grocery stores in many other cities in Colombia.

Since Carulla is more upscale they tend to have more imported items than many other grocery stores. And some Carulla stores have large produce sections. In addition, the prices at Carulla tend to be the highest out of the grocery stores in Colombia.

Fruits and vegetables section in the Aves Maria Exito in Sabaneta

Fruits and vegetables section in the Aves Maria Exito in Sabaneta

Are Grocery Prices the Same in All Exito Stores?

The simple answer to this question is “no”. The grocery prices can be different at the Exito stores in different neighborhoods.

For example, the prices for groceries in Exito in El Poblado in Medellín are generally higher than the Exito stores in Larureles, Sabaneta and other neighborhoods in the Medellín metro area. Prices for groceries in Exito in El Poblado tend to be about 2 to 5 percent higher on average than in Exito stores in other neighborhoods.

To demonstrate this, I surveyed the prices of 12 different items at two Exito stores at the Aves Maria Mall in Sabaneta and in El Poblado near the Poblado metro station. I also compared prices to the Carulla in El Poblado near Parque Poblado. The following table shows the results:

Comparing grocery prices: Exito in Sabaneta with Exito and Carulla in El Poblado, January 2019

Comparing grocery prices: Exito in Sabaneta with Exito and Carulla in El Poblado, January 2019

For the 12 items I looked at, the Exito store in El Poblado had 3.35 percent higher prices on average than the Exito store in Sabaneta. Both stores had the same prices for some basic items like milk, toothpaste and vegetable oil. But for many items, the prices were higher in El Poblado.

In addition, the Carulla store in El Poblado had on average 8.14 percent higher prices than the Exito store in Sabaneta. Also, Carulla had higher prices than the Exito store in El Pobaldo. Carulla generally tends to have the highest prices for groceries out of all the grocery stores.

TVs for sale at Exito

TVs for sale at Exito

When comparing prices, I also looked at prices for some non-grocery items like TVs, appliances and home furnishings. And for the non-grocery items, I found the prices were the same in the two Exito stores in El Poblado and Sabaneta. So, perhaps it’s mainly the grocery prices that can vary between neighborhoods.

How to Sign Up for Puntos Colombia

If you shop frequently at Exito and/or Carulla you should sign up for Puntos Colombia, which is a program at Exito that used to be known as Puntos Exito. Puntos Colombia is a frequent shopper program where you accumulate points for each purchase. You can use these points to purchase items in the future.

To sign up for Puntos Colombia you just need a Colombian cedula ID. You can sign up at any of their stores. And they will want to see your ID and you will need to provide them with other information like your address and phone number.

Also, if you have a cedula you can register for Puntos Colombia online. Choose the Regístrate/Ingresa button at the top right of the screen to register

Puntos Colombia is essentially like getting 1 percent cash back on your purchase that you can use for future purchases. With the program you get 1 punto for every 700 pesos in purchases. And that 1 punto is worth 7 pesos.

You can also use Puntos Colombia points for a number of other things like movie tickets at Cine Colombia or Cinemas Procinal. On the Puntos Colombia website is a list of the other bonuses you can use Puntos Colombia points for. For example, a 3-D ticket at Cine Colombia costs 1,800 points (equivalent to 12,600 pesos) or a 2-D ticket costs 1,100 points (equivalent to 7,700 pesos).

A grocery aisle at an Exito store

A grocery aisle at an Exito store

How to Save Money and Time at Exito

Here are five tips to save money and time when shopping at Exito:

  1. Make sure to sign up with the Colombia Puntos (points) program. This points program is essentially like getting 1 percent cash back on your purchases. I have saved hundreds of dollars over the past eight years using the puntos program at Exito.
  2. Find out the discount days. Exito has a 20 percent discount on fruits, vegetables and meats on Wednesdays.
  3. Shop the sales. Exito frequently has sales. With these sales you can typically save at least 20 to 50 percent on some grocery items and sometimes even more. The sales are posted on tags in the aisles in the stores. Also, with the frequent sales you can save money on electronics, TVs, computers, clothing and home furnishing items.
  4. Check out the sales on the Exito website. The company frequently advertises sales on its website, particularly for electronics and appliances. And you can frequently see TVs advertised for over 50 percent off.
  5. Shop during the day on weekdays. Exito stores tend to have very slow cashiers. So, the wait to checkout can be extremely long when a store is busy and the lines are long. In my experience, these big stores tend to be busiest after work on weekdays (after 5pm) and on the days before holidays or on holidays. So, if you shop during the day on a weekday when most people are at work the lines will be the shortest.
Entrance to Exito in San Diego mall

Entrance to Exito in San Diego mall

The Bottom Line: A Guide to Shopping in Exito – Colombia’s Walmart

When I first moved to Medellín, I did most of my grocery shopping at Exito stores. This was very convenient, as these large stores have a big selection. And I could generally do all my grocery shopping in one place.

But after living in Medellín for a while and getting married, we started also shopping at Tiendas D1, Justo y Bueno, PriceSmart and Makro, which all have lower prices on average than Exito.

In our guide to grocery shopping in Medellín, we showed that it is possible to save over 30 percent compared to the prices at Exito by shopping at these discount grocery stores.

But we also still shop at Exito, as it is very convenient with the big selection. In addition, we live within walking distance to a large Exito store.

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