WAREHOUSE RETAILER Cost-U-Less is reportedly contemplating expanding to the north. While BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY did not get confirmation from management of the company, sources said the business, which opened its first store nearly three years ago at Welches, St Thomas, was considering establishing store No.2 in the building formerly occupied by Dacosta Manning’s in Speightstown, St Peter.
One certainty, though, was that CUL’s parent, Canada’s The North West Company, is happy with the current lone store’s improving performance here, a position its management outlined to financial analysts in a series of recent conference calls.
The North West Company’s president and chief executive officer Edward Kennedy said CUL’s operations in the Caribbean were improving, with Barbados having overcome its initial challenges.
“The highlight would be our Cost-U-Less business in the Caribbean, which performed ver well . . . . We are seeing the benefit of, I think, good execution, our management team there is strong, and we have improved our procurement and sourcing tied to our Barbados [store],” he told analysts.
“I wouldn’t call it a turnaround but that business is continuing to build for us in Barbados profitably, but to make that happen we did some things on the sourcing side that have benefited other stores in the region. So the costs have been strong not only in Barbados but also in places like Cayman Islands, St Thomas, [and] St Croix. So we have seen a continuation of the trend.”
Kennedy said the rebound in tourism was driving the “positive” performance in the Caribbean where “the economic environment is definitely stronger than it was last year”.
“The competitive environment is not tougher, there are no new entrants in these markets.
“As time goes by we get through a cycle like this and we learn on our execution. Barbados is good learning that way, we just strengthened our competitive position, so I think we have captured some share . . . and I think we are just rising with the economic conditions, which are positive,” he said.
“The other thing I will say is low oil prices are a good thing because . . . we have seen our utility costs decrease and that’s gone into the bottom line.”
Kennedy also said reducing procurement costs and adapting their product sourcing had benefited the Barbados CUL.
“We have had to work and now we are a couple of years into that. The heavy lifting has been done in terms of getting the mix and the procurement costs in line with CARICOM tariff exemption and coming out of Costa Rica and Puerto Rico and Central America. So all of that has been put in place, there is tweaking of course, but we are way ahead of where we were when we opened the store,” he said.
He added that overall management had “more confidence and just a deeper understanding of how to optimise our regional sourcing and ensuring we have the right fit of management teams for each market”.