COSTA RICA NEWS — Althouh the Q! tried to get information directly from PriceSmart, we had to rely on the following from staff willing to talk to us, and online reports from various sources.
Those rotisserie chickens are a big deal
At ¢2.995 colones, ¢1.000 less that Walmart/Mas x Menos and ¢2.000 less that Automercado, they are a moneymaker for PriceSmart. Why? Despite the very little margin, the chickens are big draw for customers, where they can get the convenience of a quick-lunch or dinner, while loading up on toilet paper. “Economical as hell,” is the opinion of many consumers.
Members are well off and loyal
PriceSmart has an ideal membership base. The average member is educated and economically above the standard in Costa Rica. Renewal of membership is very high, over 80%. Money from member fees helps PriceSmart pad its bottom line and one of the reason the chain can sell items at rock-bottom prices.
Employees like their jobs
We’ve all dealt with stereotypical retail employee, the cranky working stiff who tolerates customers just enough to collect that meager paycheck. Not so much at PriceSmart.
In General, PriceSmart employees earn an above average salary for Costa Rica and eager to help out customers.
PriceSmart is obsesses about toilet paper
Toilet paper displays are larger than for other products, and customers have a bigger selection as well. The Q! couldn’t get figures on toilet paper, but since PriceSmart is modeled after Costco, we can deduce that toilet paper is the No. 1 product at the company.
In the U.S. Costco hires technicians to test toilet paper for thickness, strength and softness, CNBC reports. It sends merchandise managers to tour toilet paper mills, checking everything from paper quality to humidity levels to the water used in production. “How can you not fall in love with a product that is the number one thing that you sell?” former CEO Jim Sinegal told CNBC.
Shoes Are Big Thing
What? PriceSmart doesn’t sell shoes. Oh, but they do, in the name of Payless.
Located at the entrance of every PriceSmart is a Payless ShoeSource store.
PriceSmart tricks you into buying more
Did you ever stop at PriceSmart for one item, only to come out with a full cart? There’s a reason for that. PriceSmart has some clever tricks up its sleeve to get people to buy more than they planned.
One trick is not putting any signs on the aisles. So if you’re hunting for printer paper, for example, and can’t remember where exactly it is, you may end up wandering through aisles full of potential purchases.
PriceSmart has a small selection
You don’t get much choice at PriceSmart, and that’s by design. The typical PriceSmart warehouse carries less than 4.000 items, compare to twenty times that and more at typical Walmart.
PriceSmart gives one or two types of pasta, for example, take it or leave it. The beauty of this model is that the company has multiple vendors bidding to get that single prized spot, and PriceSmart gets to negotiate its costs down.
Markup is low
PriceSmart doesn’t mark up every much, if applying the Costco model, not more than 15 percent. Membership fees give it some financial freedom to keep prices low, along with its tough negotiations with vendors.