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Membership on the rise

by Latoya Burnham

Country Manager Ben Woods with General Manager Terrance Mahon talking about some of the specialty products made for PriceSmart they say they can offer at lower prices than comparable outlets.

Country Manager Ben Woods with General Manager Terrance Mahon talking about some of the specialty products made for PriceSmart they say they can offer at lower prices than comparable outlets.

For each year of operation in Barbados, PriceSmart, Inc. has seen increases in membership.

While Country Manager, Benjamin Woods told Barbados TODAY that he did not have figures to hand and directed us to the companies website which he stated would not have direct country figures but an overall view, the site itself placed the number of members in the range of a million at the 30 clubs overall.

“We have grown every year since we opened the business here, period. As a membership warehouse club, we offer value on every item that we sell and when times get tough, that value becomes more recognised.

“Generally what you will find is that true membership warehouse clubs, during recessionary pressure end up doing better not worse. We will continue to work to ensure we offer the best possible price, at the lowest possible cost, to extend that value to the member,” he said during an interview this week at the store.

Woods added: “The membership club concept is growing very well for us in all of our markets. We are expanding as a company. We are expanding in Colombia, we are looking at additional locations in existing markets.”

For Barbados, though, he said there were no immediate plans to expand further or open more outlets “at this point in time”.

“The reason for that is that we have to leverage costs. If you go out and open another one of these locations, that’s a lot of expense. We have a location, our job is to keep the discipline of the items that we sell, drive the most volume that we can on those items, [and] keep pushing down the price.

“Obviously we have expanded the facility, we made it bigger in the last 12 months. We’ve done a lot of improvements in equipment, the air conditioning system, new fresh [area] remodel that we’ve done. So we’ve done a lot in terms of helping the business grow, but we still feel there is some leveraging that can be done inside the four walls,” he noted.

Woods noted that while doing away with a membership concept was definitely not on the cards, he believed that even on the first trip to the club, members were able to recoup in savings what they spent on membership.

The leveraging concept is one that Woods kept returning to, noting that this was how they were able to offer the prices that they did to the market, adding that it was a primary issue in deciding on items to source and getting them to the market.

As to the question of taxes and duties and how they might impact on price, Woods would not be drawn into a debate about high or low taxes.

“The reality is that whether we operate in Barbados or Trinidad or anywhere else, the price is the price. It’s our job as a membership club to get the lowest possible price and get it to the country at the lowest possible price. So first, cost, then cost to get it to market, beyond that we follow the letter of the law. You pay your taxes and your duties and then if you have the right operating structure inside the four walls of the club, you continue to keep your costs down, you are able to extend that savings to the members. It’s all relative… We don’t worry too much about what we have to pay in taxes and duties, because that is what it is.”

As far as concessions are concerned, Woods said they did not receive any, but were not averse to the concept.

“No, we don’t get any concessions. None. We follow the letter of the law. If there are concessions to be given, we’d be happy to hear about them, but we pride ourselves, after operating here for over 13 years, on making sure we do the right thing,” he stated.

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