El Corte Inglés (roughly pronounced, el COR-tay in-GLAYS< /b>), is a Spanish mega-retailer whose financial strength and sheer size is unmatched by any other retailer in Spain, hands down, bar none. Its domination of the Spanish clothing, food, travel, financial services, and nearly-everything-else markets is so overwhelming that even I, as an American citizen fully familiar with such corporations as Wal-Mart and 'Tar-jay', could not help but be baffled. El Corte Inglés is like a cross between Wal-Mart, Macy's, Nordstrom, Target, and Microsoft (the last one because it has no serious competition, and has a death grip on the Spanish marketplace).

While El Corte Inglés, which translates as "The English Cut",1 is everywhere in Spain (and has even begun an encroachment into Portugal and France), my experience with it is mainly in Málaga, where a rather large building marked El Corte Inglés is at the very center of the city. That building is devoted entirely to sales of tangible goods, most of which can be found at any standard department store. But the quality of the goods at El Corte Inglés is, I must admit, exceptionally good. Málaga's Corte Inglés is excessively large for a city of its size. It reminds me of the Macy's on Fifth Avenue (in New York). The building serves as a prominent landmark.

In addition to the standard Corte Inglés department store, revenue is brought in from Málaga through many other sites. For example,across the street, there is a Corte Inglés grocery store, which purveys, in addition to normal brands of fresh, loose, and packaged foods (varying in degree of size inadequacy, but all far too small, in my experience), a full line of Corte Inglés brand label wines, Corte Inglés brand packaged foods, and Corte Inglés brand cleaning products.

Of course, if you don't want to buy your Corte Inglés brand bread from the Corte Inglés supermarket itself, you could always go to one of the smattering of other supermarkets also owned by the Corte Inglés parent corporation, (called El Corte Inglés, S.A.). There are several locations of OpenCor and HiperCor, both mere Corte Inglés supermarket chains with a different name (and a cooler logo: a royal blue background with a red shopping bag on it, and an elegant sans Serif font, IIRC), on the door.

And you can pay for your purchases at any of these stores with your El Corte Inglés credit card, which you can get from the financial services wing of El Corte Inglés. Just give them a call; if the call is long distance, or if you want to use your movil (cellular phone), you might consider using the fine telecommunications products and services also offered by El Corte Inglés, S.A.

And if you don't want to take the local bus to get there, why not buy yourself a car at one of the many Corte-Inglés-owned auto dealerships? They use the brand name "Manycars". You can buy anything from a Mercedes to a Kia at Manycars.

Need insurance for that car you just bought? No problem. El Corte Inglés sells insurance too. And if you plan to drive to a faraway destination, and need some assistance from a travel agent, Viajes Corte Inglés, the travel agency owned by El Corte Ingles, S.A., can help.

Haircutting/beauty services, retail consulting services, movie theaters, fresh flowers and gardening products, appliances, hardware, music, computers, and, if I recall correctly, dry cleaning services, are just a few of the miscellaneous things El Corte Inglés is willing to give you in exchange for your hard-earned Euro.

In fact, I am struggling as I write this to think of something that I have ever bought in my life that El Corte Inglés does not sell. I can't think of anything. They sell everything except nodegel.

With its 2002 Sales topping $13 Billion2,3 the company has now bolstered its e-commerce efforts, and the El Corte Inglés website (at http://www. elcorteingles.es) is well-organized and obviously lucrative. Their logo -- a dark green triangular pennant with the cursive words El Corte Inglés scrawled thereupon in thick white script -- can be viewed at their web site, in the top left corner. The logo is displayed ubiquitously on all of their delivery trucks and shopping bags.

Headquartered in Madrid, El Corte Inglés can be reached at: +34 (902) 22 44 11.

1. Thanks to noder Koala for correcting my previous translation as "the English Court". Koala points out that while the feminine la corte is indeed a court (as I had translated it first), the masculine, el corte means "cut", as in, perhaps, a style of tailoring, or as in "Prime Cut".

2. By "billion", I mean an American billion, i.e., 1,000,000,000 -- not a British billion, which would be 1,000,000,000,000.

3. Source: Hoovers Online, http://www.hoovers.com

Additional Source: http://www.elcorteingles.es

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