Makro is a chain of warehouse stores in Colombia with good prices to enable saving on grocery costs. The chain has 16 stores in Colombia, which includes two stores in Medellín that primarily sell groceries.
This warehouse chain sells to individuals and families as well as businesses. In addition, many hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, casinos and other businesses in Medellín and other cities in Colombia buy from these warehouse stores due to good prices and large wholesale packages.
By shopping at Makro it is possible to save substantially over the prices found at other grocery stores in Medellín like Exito and Jumbo.
What is Makro?
Makro is an international brand of warehouse clubs, also called cash and carries. The company is part of the Dutch Group SHV (Steenkolen Handels-Vereeniging), which was founded in 1896. Today SHV is a holding company, which owns a group of companies with different missions:
- SHV Gas: Domestic and industrial gas distribution.
- NPM Capital: Financial investments.
- Recycling: Production and commercialization of ferrous and other materials.
- Dyas: Exploration and production of oil.
- Makro: Wholesale Self-Service stores
Makro started operations in Amsterdam in 1968 with the concept of a cash and carry warehouse store. In 1972, the company entered the market in Latin America starting first in Brazil. And in 1989, the company started operations in Asia, with the opening of its first store in Bangkok, Thailand.
In 1997, SHV sold its stake its European operations but SVH still owns the Makro operations in Latin America and Asia.
And in 1995, SHV entered the market in Colombia in partnership with Grupo Empresarial Antioqueño GEA. In 2009, Grupo Empresarial Antioqueño GEA sold its share to SVH. So Makro in Colombia is now 100 percent owned by SHV.
In Latin America, Makro has over 150 stores including 78 stores in Brazil, 37 stores in Venezuela, 20 stores in Argentina, 16 stores in Colombia and seven stores in Peru. Additionally in Venezuela, the company has 19 Mikro stores, which are smaller versions of the store.
In Colombia, Makro has two stores in Barranquilla, three in Bogotá, two in Cali, two in Medellín, one in Cartagena, one in Cucúta, one in Pereira, one in Ibagué, one in Montería, one in Santa Marta, one in Tunja and one in Villavicencio. The company’s stores in Colombia typically range in size from 4,000 and 9,900 square meters.
What Can You Find at Makro?
Warehouse stores like Makro are able to keep prices low due to the no-frills format of the stores. At these wholesale stores you can buy low cost wholesale value alcohol, groceries, sweets and other products.
Makro sells grocery items in well over half the space in its large warehouse stores in Colombia. Some of the grocery items are in large, wholesale size package. Also, the stores sell a limited number of electronics and appliances. In addition, they sell some products for the home and offices.
These warehouse stores in Colombia tend to have a lot of familiar Colombian/South American brands as well as some imported items. However, there are much fewer imported items found in Makro stores than are found at PriceSmart stores in Colombia.
How Does Membership Work?
To buy products at Makro you need a membership card but you do not need a card to enter one of the stores. This is different than PriceSmart where you can’t enter the store unless someone in your group has a membership card.
Makro doesn’t charge for its membership. This is unlike PriceSmart, which charges 75,000 pesos annually for two of its Diamond membership cards for two people. Since the membership is free at Makro you can start saving immediately.
It is painless to sign up for a Pasaporte Makro card. It took me only a few minutes. And they just want to see your ID (cedula or passport) and to fill out a short form with your ID number, address and phone numbers.
What Savings are Possible at Makro?
Pricing can be lower at Makro for many products than the pricing you will find in Exito or Jumbo for the same products. Makro does have some larger size packages for some products than you will find at Exito or Jumbo.
To compare pricing, I recently surveyed the pricing of 12 different items in the Makro near the Poblado metro station and the Exito store in the Mayorca mall in Sabaneta. And here are the results:
Out of the 12 items I surveyed, I found two that were cheaper in Exito. The average savings at Makro of the 12 items surveyed was 28.5 percent. Most notably, by comparing pricing by quantity, you can find many items that are much cheaper in Makro than in Exito or Jumbo.
But be careful as we have found that not everything sold at Makro is cheaper than at Exito. For example, in this pricing survey we found that Coke and bread was cheaper at Exito. Several products can be less expensive in Exito as Exito buys in huge quantities. So, we recommend comparing prices, like in the table above.
How does Makro compare to PriceSmart? In my experience both warehouse style stores have many items that can be 30 percent cheaper than in Exito or even cheaper. But PriceSmart has many more imported items. We tend to shop at PriceSmart more often due to it having more imported items that are difficult to find elsewhere in Medellín.
How to Get There?
Makro has two locations in Medellín. In addition, both warehouse stores are located close to metro stations. One is located about a five-minute walk from the Poblado metro station on Line A.
And the second warehouse store is located about a five-minute walk from the Suramericana metro station on Line B. So, both stores are much more conveniently located than PriceSmart, which is located on the west side of Olaya Herrera Airport near Clínicas Las Américas.
Addresses: Calle 10 # 50 -171 and Calle 44 # 66-50
Phone: +57 4 430 5708
Hours: Monday-Saturday 7 am – 9 pm, Sunday 8 am – 8 pm
The Bottom Line: Savings at Makro
By shopping at Makro (and PriceSmart and Tiendas D1) it is possible to save substantially on your grocery costs compared to shopping at Exito and Jumbo. Since we started shopping at PriceSmart and Tiendas D1 and sometimes Makro and recently Justo y Bueno, our grocery costs in terms of pesos have dropped by over 30 percent since our average in 2014 when we shopped primarily at just Exito and Jumbo.
The bottom line is that comparison shopping enables you to save substantially on your grocery costs.
In addition, in my experience, Makro is usually the busiest on the weekends with longer checkout lines. So, I recommend shopping there during the week, if possible. Also, Makro has some bags at checkout. But they are larger and more heavy duty than found at grocery stores like Exito. And they are expensive, so we recommend bringing your own bags.
Also, we have a detailed guide to grocery shopping in Medellín with tips for saving money on groceries.
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Does Makro provide bags at check out for a surcharge? For environmental reasons the practice has been required by the government no?
Yes Makro has bags at the checkout. But they are larger and more heavy duty than you’ll find at Exito and expensive – I recall something like 600 pesos. So, bring your own bags. PriceSmart doesn’t have bags — but they have boxes that items sold are shipped in that you can use to pack your items. Thanks for the question, I added a comment at the end of the article recommending bringing your own bags.
And the government has made grocery stores like Exito start charging a small 20 peso tax for plastic bags at checkout.
Thanks Jeff, read this yesterday, then got called away. Nice to see there are more possibilities for shopping in Colombia, and they are sensitive to the environment.