The Brazilians are coming -- to a store near you

Wed Sep 1, 2010 11:18am EDT
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By Stuart Grudgings

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The chattering line of Brazilians, many straining under the weight of their duty-free bags, stretched back hundreds of feet after a recent Monday night flight from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro.

Backed by a booming economy, record job creation and a strong currency, Brazilian consumers are taking wing as they go on a spending spree from street markets in the Argentine capital to shopping malls in Florida and Chile's ski slopes.

The consumption power of Brazil's burgeoning middle class already has helped make the Latin American giant one of the world's few engines of growth, propelling its economy at a 9 percent annual pace in the first three months of 2010.

Frenzied shopping is the norm for Brazilian tourists abroad, who face some of the world's highest prices at home thanks to heavy import taxes.

These days their clout is being felt in foreign climes, helped by better access to credit and deals that allow travelers to pay in 10 or more installments.

"They're buying everything in this mall," laughed 54-year-old Brazilian Gilvania Venancio as she watched about 20 of her relatives roam through shops in Buenos Aires last weekend, buying everything from leather jackets to perfumes.

Brazilian tourists spent $8.6 billion abroad in the first seven months of 2010, a 56 percent rise on the year before, according to central bank figures released last month.

The record $1.5 billion they spent abroad in July contributed heavily to a near tripling of Brazil's current account deficit from a year ago to $4.5 billion. That makes them part of a brewing headache for the country's policymakers, because the widening of the deficit tends to raise vulnerability to foreign capital flows that fund the gap.   Continued...