Liverpool remains the leader of the Department Store market in Mexico, by developing new concepts and continually strengthening Omnichannel offerings. Since the pandemic began, we have seen an increase in the proportion of Hardline sales, particularly appliances, computers, TV & Video equipment and furniture.
Additionally, our department stores had to deal with ongoing restriction of store hours and traffic, culminating in a new round of store shutdowns in Mexico City, State of Mexico and Puebla, among others, starting December 18th.
Our main promotional events were extended to allow customers a safe in-store shopping experience, abiding by the traffic limitations imposed by the public health authorities.
This successful commercial strategy, alongside the outstanding performance of the digital channel enabled us not just to temper the negative impact of the pandemic on our sales, but also to keep our inventories at healthy levels, with an 8% reduction from 2019.
Although our capital expenditures were sharply curtailed last year, we continued to work on our expansion plan, though at a slower pace, focused on strategic projects toward opening two new stores in Guadalajara and Tijuana in 2021, and in building our new Arco Norte Logistical Platform (called PLAN), one of Latin America’s largest logistics centers, the first phase of which will start up in 2022.
We continue to promote our operating sustainability through the Comprehensive Environmental Management System, which includes energy efficiency projects, water footprint mitigation and the proper handling of waste from all our stores.
Suburbia faced a daunting challenge in new consumer habits, specifically a shift in customer preferences toward housewares and electronics, while clothing—Suburbia’s strong point—trended toward comfort and convenience. This division also depends heavily on sales in the Mexico City metropolitan area. The Suburbia website, though it saw interesting growth last year, is still in its early stages. We launched the “Best Fit in History” program, which was enthusiastically accepted by our shoppers. The “Outfit your Home” promotion featured an attractive range of new items, which boosted sales of general merchandise. And in support of the Group’s financial plan, the number of new store openings was trimmed to nine.
Our Galerías Shopping Centers, like the rest of our business units, faced difficult times in 2020. From the start of the pandemic, the priority has been protecting our employees and visitors. Sanitary measures and official restrictions obligated us to adjust our operations to help our various tenants. While some businesses were forced to close completely, others considered essential were allowed to continue operating, along with others like food takeout. The occupancy rate ended the year at 93.5%. We have been negotiating with a number of tenants on rent payments.
Liverpool credit cards felt the same pressure as the rest of the Group. In an effort to support our customers, we offered deferred payment plans. All payments and paperwork had to be done via digital channels to keep up with collections. Because one of our priorities was to prevent an erosion of loan delinquency rates in our portfolio, we reined in new credit accounts as well as credit line increases. Even so, the number of credit cards topped 5.6 million, and these were the preferred means of payment in Liverpool Stores, while accounting for 20% of sales at Suburbia. As part of the Group’s omnichannel strategy, we continue to expand and improve the use of the credit section in Liverpool’s mobile app, and on liverpool.com.mx. We currently have nearly 3 million customers registered on the platform, where they can check their balances and available credit, recent activity and account statements, among other features. This year we launched online card payment capability, resulting in more than 2 million payments during the year. Integration between the online store and our payment methods meant that cards made up more of sales on liverpool.com.mx than they did in bricks-and-mortar stores. Our Insurance unit made several improvements to user experience and was able to increase its sales by 18.4%. In 2021, we will continue working to introduce new functions to these digital channels in order to better serve our customers.