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ANNUAL REPORT ON FORM 10-K FOR
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
This annual report on Form 10-K contains forward-looking statements concerning PriceSmart, Inc.'s ("PriceSmart", the "Company" or "we") anticipated future revenues and earnings, adequacy of future cash flows, omni-channel initiatives, proposed warehouse club openings, the Company's performance relative to competitors and related matters. These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements containing the words “expect,” “believe,” “will,” “may,” “should,” “project,” “estimate,” “anticipated,” “scheduled,” “intend,” and like expressions, and the negative thereof. These statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially including, but not limited to the risks detailed in this Annual Report on Form 10-K under the heading Part I. “Item 1A. Risk Factors.” Forward-looking statements are only as of the date they are made, and we do not undertake to update these statements, except as required by law. In addition, these risks are not the only risks that the Company faces. The Company could also be affected by additional factors that apply to all companies operating globally and in the U.S., as well as other risks that are not presently known to the Company or that the Company currently considers to be immaterial.
Item 1. Business
PriceSmart exists to improve the lives and businesses of our Members, our employees and our communities by reliably and consistently providing quality goods and valuable services at the lowest possible prices. We believe that lower prices on products and services drive sales volume, which increases the Company’s buying leverage, which in turn leads to better pricing that we can then offer to our Members, validating the value of the annual membership fee.
PriceSmart began operations in 1996 in San Diego, California, with the intent to bring our U.S. style membership shopping warehouse club concept to emerging and developing countries. We currently operate 50 warehouse clubs in Central America, the Caribbean, and Colombia. In all 13 markets, our Members are able to engage with us on social media and shop on our e-commerce platform, PriceSmart.com.
Member experience is our top priority. We rigorously limit the number of SKU’s in order to drive volume and leverage purchasing power for the benefit of our Members. Our curated selection offers a combination of specialty items that are imported and/or unique to our markets, locally and regionally sourced goods, essential goods, direct-from-farm fresh produce and private label consumer products under the brand “Member’s Selection®”. Our Member’s Selection® offering allows us to maintain key quality items at lower prices and provides the opportunity to reduce supply chain risks. We also offer prepared foods and fresh-baked goods. Most merchandise is available for online ordering through PriceSmart.com and for delivery or contactless curbside pickup through our Click & Go™ service. We also offer Wellness programs such as Optical, Pharmacy and Audiology. Our clubs typically feature food courts and tire centers and services. We are also a significant provider of goods to small businesses in our markets that benefit from larger pack sizes and lower pricing. We strive to continually enhance the value of our membership such that the value of the goods and services purchased and received by the Member far exceeds the annual cost of the membership.
Our warehouse clubs range in sales floor size from approximately 30,000 to 60,000 square feet. Our larger clubs are typically located in and around densely populated major cities that include a large penetration of consumers with significant disposable income. Our smaller clubs tend to be in areas with less population density, but where there are significant opportunities to serve the population and supply and support businesses. We also have smaller format clubs in urban areas where it is difficult to secure sufficient real estate at a reasonable cost.
We strategically invest in technology to enhance Member experience and convenience. We believe technology allows us to access valuable data that supports our ability to increase efficiencies and gain important insights about our Members’ purchasing habits. We now provide digital membership and auto-renewal for the convenience of our Members.
Our logistics and distribution infrastructure is key to maximizing efficiencies. We continually review and upgrade our logistics and distribution systems in an attempt to capture efficiencies as our business grows in sales volume, in geography and through activity generated by e-commerce. We utilize regional distribution centers in the U.S. and Costa Rica as well as several local distribution centers to distribute merchandise efficiently and to create flexibility to mitigate the risk of supply-chain disruption. We also seek to capture efficiencies by using specialized distribution centers for produce and centralized production for categories such as bakery and meat processing.
Purchasing land and constructing warehouse clubs is generally our largest ongoing capital investment. Securing land for warehouse club locations is challenging in several of our markets because suitable sites at economically feasible prices are difficult to find. We believe ownership of our real estate in many of our markets provides several advantages, including lower operating expenses, flexibility to expand or otherwise enhance our buildings, long-term control over the use of the property and potential increase of value in future years. Although we prefer to own real estate, we sometimes lease our real estate when leasing provides the best available opportunity.
Our warehouse clubs currently operate in emerging markets that historically have had higher growth rates and lower warehouse club market penetration than the U.S. market. In locations where we operate, we do not currently face direct competition from U.S. membership warehouse club operators. However, we do face competition from various local and international retail formats such as hypermarkets, supermarkets, cash and carry outlets, hard discounters, home improvement centers, electronic retailers, specialty stores, convenience stores, traditional wholesale distribution and online sales.
The number of warehouse clubs in operation for each country or territory were as follows:
in Operation as of
in Operation as of
August 31, 2021
August 31, 2022
In Fiscal Year 2023
U.S. Virgin Islands
Our warehouse clubs, one regional distribution center and several smaller local distribution centers are located in Latin America and the Caribbean, and our corporate headquarters, U.S. buying operations and our larger regional distribution center are located primarily in the United States. Our operating segments are the United States, Central America, the Caribbean and Colombia.
We are currently constructing a smaller format warehouse club in the Hacienda San Andrés area of San Miguel, El Salvador, approximately 100 miles east of the capital city San Salvador, which is anticipated to open in the spring of 2023. It will be our third club in El Salvador. In addition, we are proceeding with the construction of a smaller format warehouse club in the affluent El Poblado area of Medellín, Colombia. We expect to open this warehouse club, which will be our second club in Medellín and the Company’s tenth warehouse club in Colombia, in the summer of 2023. Once these two new clubs are open, we will operate 52 warehouse clubs.
We also export products to a retailer in the Philippines and are exploring expansion of that business in other markets.
Part of our unique value proposition is making available to our Members a curated selection of high quality merchandise sourced from around the world and valuable services, with lower margins than traditional retail stores.
We offer merchandise in the following categories:
Foods & Sundries consists primarily of our grocery, cleaning supplies, health & beauty and canned foods products and constituted approximately 49% of net merchandise sales for fiscal 2022.
Fresh Foods consists primarily of our meat, produce, deli, seafood and poultry products and constituted approximately 29% of net merchandise sales for fiscal 2022.
Hardlines consists primarily of our electronics, appliances, hardware, sporting goods, and toy products and constituted approximately 11% of net merchandise sales for fiscal 2022.
Softlines consists primarily of apparel, domestics and furniture products and constituted approximately 6% of our net merchandise sales for fiscal 2022.
Other Business consists primarily of our food service, bakery, wellness (optical, pharmacy, and audiology) and tire center constituted approximately 5% of net merchandise sales for fiscal 2022.
Across various categories, we offer exciting and unique seasonal merchandise and rotational programs that offer unique value throughout the year.
Low Operating Costs. Our format is designed to move merchandise from our suppliers to our Members at a lower expense ratio than our competitors. We strive to achieve efficiencies in product distribution by minimizing the labor required to stock and display merchandise, limiting non-payroll operating expenses and maintaining low occupancy costs. For example, we offer a limited number of stock keeping units (SKUs) with large pack sizes, which allows us to keep shelves stocked with less labor cost than competitors that offer a greater number of SKUs. More recently, we also have opened distribution centers in certain of our high-volume markets to improve efficiency and in-stock rate, reduce lead times on high volume products, and mitigate risks of supply chain disruption. Our focus on driving down operating costs allows us to offer better value and lower prices to our Members, which we believe helps generate Member loyalty and renewals, which in turn leads to increased sales.
Membership. Our membership model in and of itself provides a competitive advantage. Our membership represents a desirable demographic concentration with strong purchasing power in our markets. The data we can access about our membership base not only provides better connectivity with our Members, but also enables us to identify and pursue additional opportunities to provide value for our Members. Membership has been a basic operating characteristic in the warehouse club industry, beginning over 46 years ago at Price Club, the first warehouse club. We believe membership promotes Member loyalty, and membership fees contribute to our ability to operate our business on lower margins than conventional retailers and wholesalers. Membership fees were equal to approximately 1.5% of net merchandise sales and 36.1% of operating income in fiscal year 2022. Our Members can sign up for and renew their memberships online, which gives us another valuable digital touch point with them.
We continue to expand our product and services offerings to our Members. One of our primary initiatives has been the expansion of our Wellness programs, which include our Optical, Pharmacy and Audiology departments. As of August 31, 2022, we had 47 Optical locations open, with eight Pharmacy and five Audiology locations open. We expect to continue our rollout of Audiology to a majority of our clubs and markets in fiscal year 2023. In addition, we plan to increase our Pharmacy locations by expanding this service to all the clubs in our Panama market. We believe that untapped opportunities exist to further enhance the value of our membership in various areas. We continue to explore opportunities to provide our Members with products and services that are particularly attractive to our unique membership base while expanding current programs such as our co-branded credit card.
Business Members. Our product selection, larger pack sizes, and low prices appeal to both business and retail consumers. Our business Members include a broad cross section of businesses such as restaurants, institutions including schools, and other businesses that purchase products for resale or use in their operations. These business Members represent a significant source of sales and profit and provide purchasing volume that gives us better prices from our suppliers.
Worldwide Sourcing. Approximately 49% of our sales come from merchandise sourced in the U.S., Asia and Europe. One of the primary advantages we have compared to most of our competitors is our United States-based buying team that sources merchandise from suppliers in the U.S. and around the world. Our buyers identify and purchase new and exciting items, including our own Member’s Selection private label products. Many of these branded products are available only at PriceSmart in the markets in which we operate.
Innovation. The warehouse club industry has been operating for over forty years, following the founding of Price Club in 1976. The world of merchandising has evolved during this period, particularly with respect to how technology impacts operational efficiencies and how consumers shop. We are leveraging technological innovations we have developed to enhance our worldwide sourcing of products and make them available in our developing and emerging countries in a manner that meets current consumer preferences. We operate effectively in multiple markets, many of which are relatively small, with different legal requirements, local buying opportunities, cultural norms, distribution and logistical challenges and Member preferences that require us to source the correct mix of local versus imported merchandise. We believe that our future success is highly dependent on our capacity to continue to adapt and innovate to meet the needs of our current and future Members. We expect to expand our omni-channel offering to include additional services such as drop-ship and the creation of a digital business-to-business application. We also have developed better inbound and outbound online communication channels, and we are using data analytics to better understand our Members’ evolving preferences.
Experienced Management Team. Sherry S. Bahrambeygui is PriceSmart’s Chief Executive Officer. She has led several new transformational initiatives that have allowed us to retain the key benefits of our business model, while expanding capabilities that generate new ways of approaching our business, including an omni-channel platform and adoption and application of new technology and data analytics to drive growth. She has been instrumental to the evolution of the Company’s governance and other strategic initiatives for the past ten years, first as a member of our Board of Directors and then as CEO and Board member since 2018. Michael L. McCleary is Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Mr. McCleary joined the Company in 2003 and has over 30 years of international finance, tax and accounting experience. In addition to Ms. Bahrambeygui and Mr. McCleary, many other members of our management team have extensive career experience in the warehouse club business, including some who learned the warehouse club business from their time at Price Club. Their experience and knowledge represent a key strength and competitive advantage for our company. We also have retained key executives from when we acquired Aeropost in March 2018 who are experienced in developing online technology and marketing for e-commerce and who have assisted us in increasing our digital interaction with Members. We continue making investments in talent to support our technology development and other administrative functions. In March 2022, John D. Hildebrandt was appointed Acting Chief Operating Officer, and in May 2022, became the Chief Operating Officer of the Company. He had previously served as the Company’s Executive Vice President – Operations since February 2010. Before that office, Mr. Hildebrandt held various management positions with the Company dating back to 1997. He initially worked overseas in the Philippines and Panama as a country manager, then held positions of Vice President and Senior Vice President before becoming an Executive Vice President overseeing the Company’s Caribbean and Central American operations. Mr. Hildebrandt was a Senior Operations Manager of Price/Costco from 1994 through 1996 and served in various management roles for The Price Company beginning in 1979.
As we look to the future, our Company is focused on three major drivers of growth:
Expand Real Estate Footprint with New Clubs and Distribution Facilities
Increase Membership Value
Drive Incremental Sales via PriceSmart.com and Enhanced Online, Digital and Technological Capabilities
I.Expand Real Estate Footprint with New Clubs and Distribution Facilities. We continue to seek opportunities to expand our geographic footprint for brick-and-mortar warehouse clubs. We plan to open a warehouse club in El Salvador located in the city of San Miguel in the spring of 2023 and another club in Medellín, Colombia in the summer of 2023. We continue to actively pursue club growth in our markets and to evaluate opportunities in new markets. Our growth strategy, as it pertains to real estate, includes physical distribution centers of various types to support the flow of merchandise from the supplier to the Member, be it sales generated from the clubs or through PriceSmart.com. Also, the need for supply chain optionality in today’s world has proven essential. Therefore, we plan to make appropriate investments in our distribution network to maximize efficiencies, minimize supply chain disruption, maximize the efficient use of limited space in our warehouse clubs, and to provide optimal support for a growing e-commerce business. In addition to our distribution center in Miami, Florida, we also operate a regional distribution center in Costa Rica and are actively considering others. During fiscal 2022 we doubled our network of Produce Distribution Centers from two to four and are currently developing plans for two more. In some cases, these facilities also provide the opportunity to capture efficiencies by centralizing certain production activities, such as bakery, meat processing, packaging, and labeling.
II.Increase Membership Value. We are seeking to attract more Members and retain our current Members by expanding the benefits of being a Member of PriceSmart through sales, services, and convenience. As benefits grow and the value of being a PriceSmart Member increases, adjustments to the membership fee may be warranted. A larger membership base and higher membership fee contribute to the bottom line of the business. We focus on growth of our membership base, Member renewal rates and spend per Member as part of how we determine how Members see our value. By adding more benefits that Members can only obtain with us, we expect to see growth in the number of Members, which drives Membership income and Merchandise sales. Recent examples of enhancements we have made to the value of membership include: additional services such as the ability for all of our Members to transact on PriceSmart.com; Click & Go™ curbside pickup and delivery service in all of our clubs; and the implementation and expansion of our Well-being initiative, which offers Optical services with free eye exams for the Member and additional members of their families and deeply discounted eyeglass frames; Audiology services with free hearing exams and deeply discounted hearing aids; and Pharmacy, which provides a significant convenience to our Members. Another way we enhance Membership value is through our private label offering, “Member’s Selection®,” a brand which is available only to PriceSmart Members. We believe the Member’s Selection® brand carries goodwill and is recognized in our markets for value. Private label also provides us the opportunity to source quality items locally when appropriate. Select local sourcing has multiple benefits, including support of local communities in which we operate by enhancing business activity and creating direct and indirect jobs, mitigation of foreign currency exchange risk, and reduced supply chain exposure. These initiatives offer additional benefits and services for our Members whether they choose to shop on-line, in-club, or both. In fiscal year 2022, our private label sales penetration grew by 12%, from 22.1% of the total merchandising sales in fiscal year 2021 to 24.7% in fiscal year 2022, and we plan to continue to invest in the development of additional private label products under the “Member’s Selection®” brand.
III.Drive Incremental Sales via PriceSmart.com and Enhanced Online, Digital and Technological Capabilities. We recognize the growing expectation of consumers in our markets for convenience. As a result, we continue to improve the functionality and content of PriceSmart.com and to expand our product offerings available online. We also build and apply technological tools to continue to learn more about and strengthen our relationships with each of our Members. Using data analytics, we believe we have been able to provide our Members with enhancements to the membership experience. PriceSmart.com and these tools provide the opportunity for us to continually strengthen and expand the scope of our relationship with each Member and offer incremental products and services in the future. Our PriceSmart.com offering provides data that informs us regarding the potential viability of new clubs in new areas and offers us options to serve and expand into new markets without the need for a traditional brick & mortar club location. We also invest in technology to capture operational efficiencies and enhance our decision-making for the increasingly dynamic environment we are in.
Since our inception, we have consistently believed that distribution efficiency is fundamental for success in selling merchandise in our traditional clubs, and in today’s world, this principle holds true for purchases made online. Because PriceSmart sources merchandise from all over the world and especially in the United States, and because we are doing business in countries where infrastructure—roads and ports—is not as developed as in the United States, distribution efficiency is even more significant for us. Our ability to move products efficiently and in a timely manner from the suppliers to our Members is key to the cost structure of our business and, consequentially, to how low we can price our products for our Members.
Historically, our international suppliers and especially our U.S. suppliers have generally shipped their products to our Miami distribution facility where they are received and assigned to various containers for direct shipment to our locations. Regional and in-country suppliers have shipped directly to our locations. As our location sales volumes have grown, we have begun to route more of our products from international, regional and local suppliers to regional and local distribution centers in order to improve in-stocks and reduce inventory weeks of supply and logistics costs and the working capital requirements of the business, all with the goal of giving better prices to our Members.
In addition to our Miami distribution facility, we have a large regional distribution center located in the metropolitan area of San Jose, Costa Rica. This 165,000 square foot building is designed to receive, store and ship dry, refrigerated, and frozen products to clubs in Central America. This regional distribution center has the capacity to ship products such as major appliances and online products directly to our Members or to convenient pick-up locations, including our clubs. We are considering other strategic locations for distribution centers to drive efficiencies and expand omni-channel offerings.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have encountered numerous supply-chain challenges, including but not limited to, container shortages, port backlogs, and reduced trucking and shipping availability. Our expanded network of distribution centers has allowed for more alternative routings of shipments, increased throughput, and flexibility to be able to more effectively mitigate these challenges. Refer to Part II. “Item 7. Management’s Discussion & Analysis – Factors Affecting Our Business” for further discussion regarding these challenges and our efforts to mitigate them.
Lastly, as part of our efforts to source additional high quality and healthy fresh products, and expand on our Direct Farm Program, we operate four produce distribution centers. We believe that our Direct Farm Program reduces expenses, waste and prices and allows us to offer higher quality items, while simultaneously supporting local farmers and industry. Our produce distribution centers allow us to get high-quality produce from farm-to-table quicker and more efficiently. We expect to continue to expand this program and are developing plans to build two additional produce distribution centers in more of our markets.
As with distribution efficiency operating efficiency is a key tenet of our business model. We are constantly seeking to improve operating efficiencies, by investing in technology and by centralizing back-office capabilities and facilities for processing and producing products, such as meat and bakery.
Our Membership Policy
We offer three types of memberships: Diamond, Business and Platinum.
The Diamond Membership is targeted at individuals and families. The annual fee for a Diamond Membership (entitling Members to two cards), in most markets is approximately $35 (excluding sales tax). In Colombia, we raised the Diamond Membership fee to 100,000 COP (excluding sales tax) in January 2022, yielding a current Membership price of approximately $23.
The Company currently offers the Platinum Membership program in all thirteen of its markets. The annual fee for a Platinum Membership in most markets is approximately $75 (excluding sales tax). The Platinum Membership provides Members with a 2% rebate on most items, up to an annual maximum of $500. Platinum Members can apply this rebate to future purchases at the warehouse club at the end of the annual membership period. The rebate is issued annually to Platinum Members on March 1 and expires August 31. Any rebate amount not redeemed by August 31 is recognized as breakage revenue.
We promote our Business Membership by offering certain merchandise targeted primarily to businesses such as restaurants, hotels, convenience stores, offices and institutions. In most markets, our Business Members pay an annual membership fee of approximately $35 for a primary and secondary membership card and approximately $10 for additional add-on membership cards. Only businesses can qualify for a Business Membership.
Members can now sign-up and renew their memberships as well as opt for auto-renewal online.
We recognize membership income over the 12-month term of the membership. Deferred membership income was $28.0 million and $26.0 million as of August 31, 2022 and August 31, 2021, respectively. Our membership agreements provide that if our Members cancel their membership in the first 60 days, they will receive a full refund. After the initial 60 day period, Members may receive a refund for the prorated share of their remaining membership fee if they so request.
Our Intellectual Property Rights
It is our policy to obtain appropriate intellectual property rights protection for trademarks by filing applications for registration of eligible trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in certain foreign countries. We also rely on copyright and trade secret laws to protect our proprietary rights. We attempt to protect our trade secrets and other proprietary information through agreements with our employees, consultants and suppliers and other similar measures. There can be no assurance, however, that we will be successful in protecting our proprietary rights. While we believe that our trademarks, copyrights and other proprietary know how have significant value, changing technology and the competitive marketplace make our future success dependent principally upon our employees’ technical competence and creative skills for continuing innovation.
Our international merchandising business competes with a wide range of international, regional, national and local retailers, and traditional wholesale distributors. We compete in a variety of ways, including the prices at which we sell our merchandise, merchandise selection and availability, services offered to customers, location, store hours and the shopping convenience and overall shopping experience we offer. We also prioritize above all the safety of our Members and our employees. Some of our competitors may have greater resources, buying power and name recognition. In the countries in which we operate, we do not currently face direct competition from U.S. membership warehouse club operators. However, we do face competition from various retail formats such as hypermarkets, supermarkets, convenience stores, cash and carry outlets, home improvement centers, electronic retailers and specialty stores, including those within Latin America that are owned and operated by large U.S. and international retailers, including Walmart, Inc. in Central America and Grupo Éxito and Cencosud in Colombia. We have competed effectively in our markets in the past and expect to continue to do so in the future due to the unique nature of the membership warehouse club format. We have noted that certain retailers within our markets are making investments in upgrading their locations and/or experimenting with different formats. These actions may result in increased competition within our markets. Further, it is possible that additional U.S. warehouse club operators may decide to enter our markets and compete more directly with us in a similar warehouse club format. We also face competition from online retailers, such as Amazon.com, Inc. in Colombia, and last-mile delivery services that serve our markets, and we expect that this type of competition will grow and intensify in the future.
As of August 31, 2022, we had approximately 10,600 employees. Approximately 96% of our employees were employed outside of the United States, and about 1,800 employees were represented by labor unions.
Developing a Diverse Workforce Representative of Our Markets
Fundamental to our mission is the ability to attract, retain, and develop a diverse workforce representative of the countries in which we operate. We are proud to hire from the local communities where we operate, which then enhances our understanding of the legislation and operating environment of each country so we can better serve our Members. We provide our employees with competitive wages above minimum wage in each region, as well as comprehensive benefit programs, which generally include life and health insurance and post-employment savings plans. We also seek to identify opportunities to support local businesses and communities, with the goal of improving the quality of life in the countries where we operate.
We believe our investment in the education, training and development of our employees contributes to the overall success of our business. We believe a focus on talent development leads to long-serving, loyal employees, which improves efficiencies in operations, thus resulting in higher quality service to our Members. We provide learning opportunities for our employees through various training courses including instructor-led internal and external programs. We also seek to promote from within, allowing us to develop the leadership strengths of our employees to provide a better overall customer experience for our Members.
Health and Safety
The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to our business, communities, Members and employees. During the initial period of the pandemic, we prioritized the safety and well-being of our employees and Members by following applicable local and national government regulations at each of our warehouse clubs, offices, and distribution center locations. We implemented enhanced cleaning and sanitizing protocols and provided personal protective equipment to our employees, conducted contact tracing, preventative quarantining and implemented paid leave. We reinforced the education of our employees on safety, best practices of good hygiene, as well the encouraging to our employees to receive vaccinations as they became available. We had reserve teams of employees who did not overlap with each other so that they might step in as needed allowing those who were sick to take time off. We also had provided employee transportation and meals to offer them a safe and reliable means to work. As the pandemic has evolved, we began pulling back on many of these activities. However, we will continue to monitor the evolution of the pandemic and related workforce trends, best practices and government regulations.
Seasonality and Quarterly Fluctuations
Historically, our merchandising businesses have experienced holiday retail seasonality in their markets. In addition to seasonal fluctuations, our operating results fluctuate quarter-to-quarter as a result of economic and political events in markets that we serve, the timing of holidays, weather, the timing of shipments, product mix and currency effects on the cost of U.S.-sourced products which may make these products more or less expensive in local currencies and therefore more or less affordable. Because of such fluctuations, the results of operations of any quarter are not indicative of the results that may be achieved for a full fiscal year or any future quarter. In addition, there can be no assurance that our future results will be consistent with past results or the projections of securities analysts.
PriceSmart, Inc. was incorporated in the State of Delaware in 1994. Our principal executive offices are located at 9740 Scranton Road, San Diego, California 92121. Our telephone number is (858) 404-8800. Our website home page on the Internet is www.pricesmart.com. We make our website content available for information purposes only. It should not be relied upon for investment purposes, nor is it incorporated by reference into this Form 10-K.
The PriceSmart, Inc. investor relations website or internet address is https://investors.pricesmart.com. On this website we make available, free of charge, our annual report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and any amendments to those reports, and the annual report to the stockholders as soon as reasonably practicable after electronically filing such material with or furnishing it to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Our SEC reports can be accessed through the investor relations section of our website under “SEC Filings.” Additionally, the SEC maintains an internet site that contains reports, proxy and information statements and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC at www.sec.gov. We will make available our annual report on Form 10-K and our annual Proxy Statement for the fiscal year 2022 at the internet address http://materials.proxyvote.com/741511 as soon as reasonably practicable after electronically filing such material with or furnishing it to the SEC.
Item 1A. Risk Factors
In evaluating the Company’s business, you should consider the following discussion of risk factors, in addition to other information contained in this report and in the Company’s other public filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Any such risks could materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations, cash flow, financial condition, liquidity and prospects. However, the risks described below are not the only risks facing us. Our business operations could also be affected by additional factors that apply to all companies operating in the U.S. and globally. Additional risks and uncertainties not currently known to us or those we currently view to be immaterial may also materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations, cash flow and prospects.
External Factors that Could Adversely Affect Us
The global novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic had and may continue to have an adverse effect our business, results of operations, financial condition, and liquidity.
In addition to measures, we took voluntarily, the government authorities in our markets have taken actions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including travel restrictions, border closings, restrictions on public gatherings, stay-at-home orders and other quarantine and isolation measures. They also imposed business limitations such as mandatory temporary closures, required reduced operating hours, restrictions on segments of the population permitted to shop on particular days, customer occupancy limits and restrictions on sales of “non-essential” merchandise. Many of these policies and restrictions resulted in limiting access for our Members and adversely impacted our club operations. While all the limitations have been lifted in our markets, they could be re-imposed in the event of a resurgence of infections or if future mutations, variants or related strains of the virus become prevalent.
Our business depends heavily on the uninterrupted operation of our distribution facilities located in Miami, Florida and San Jose, Costa Rica, our warehouse clubs located in Colombia, Central America and the Caribbean, and our headquarters and buying operations in San Diego, California. The operation of all of our facilities is highly dependent on our employees who staff these locations, and the coronavirus could directly threaten the health of our employees. Additionally, to protect our employees, we have trained our in-club and distribution center employees about and enforced social distancing. During much of the pandemic, most of our employees who could do so worked remotely. However, we are currently in the process of implementing a return to office plan, whereby employees work part of the week from home and the other part from a Company office. Management believes this hybrid approach allows for the continued safety of our workforce while also having the benefit of maintaining an engaging work environment and work life balance. Managing through this transition back to the office will be important to the continued success of our Company. Finally, we continue to identify alternative distribution channels in the case of closure of one or more of our distribution facilities or upstream and downstream disruption to our supply chain. Events such as these complicate and/or threaten the way we execute and the performance of our business and could have a material adverse effect or our business and operating results.
Operating during the COVID-19 pandemic increased our costs of operations. Among other things, we provided personal protective equipment to our employees, employed additional cleaning and sanitizing procedures at our warehouse clubs and distribution facilities. As the pandemic has evolved and COVID-19 restrictions have decreased, we believe we will still incur some costs depending on future outbreaks or resurgences.
In addition, as a result of COVID-19 and the measures designed to contain the spread of the virus, we faced and may again face delays or difficulty sourcing products, which could negatively affect our business and financial results. Certain of our suppliers had their manufacturing operations disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, and even where goods have been completed, they had been subject to weeks-long shipping delays. If our third-party suppliers’ operations are curtailed, again, or transportation systems are disrupted, we may need to seek alternate sources of supply, which may be more expensive. If the production and distribution closures were to resume for an extended period of time, the impact on our supply chain could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and cash flows.
Negative economic conditions created or exacerbated by COVID-19, higher interest rates and inflation could adversely impact our business in various respects.
A slowdown in the economies of one or more of the countries in which we operate or adverse changes in economic conditions affecting discretionary consumer spending could adversely affect consumer demand for the products we sell, change the mix of products we sell to a mix with a lower average gross margin, cause a slowdown in discretionary purchases of goods, adversely affect our net sales and result in slower inventory turnover and greater markdowns of inventory, or otherwise materially adversely affect our operating results. Any prolonged outbreak of the coronavirus could result in the imposition of quarantines or closures of retailer locations, office spaces, manufacturing facilities, travel and transportation restrictions and/or import and export restrictions, any of which could contribute to a general slowdown in the global economy and the economies of the markets in which we operate. Increasing interest rates, inflation, higher fuel prices and other factors also could adversely affect the economies of the countries where we operate. A significant decline in the economies of the countries in which our warehouse clubs are located may lead to decreased sales and profitability, increased governmental ownership or regulation of the economy, higher interest rates and increased barriers to entry such as higher tariffs and taxes. The economic factors that affect our operations also may adversely affect the operations of our suppliers, which can result in an increase in the cost to us of the goods we sell to our Members or, in more extreme cases, in certain suppliers not producing goods in the volume typically available for sale to us.
The economic factors that affect our operations may also adversely affect the operations of our suppliers, which can result in an increase in the cost to us of the goods we sell to our customers or, in more extreme cases, in certain suppliers not producing goods in the volume typically available to us for sale.
Employment laws and regulations in the countries in which we operate may limit our ability to effect a reduction in force to reduce our labor expenses in line with declining revenues. In some of the countries in which we operate, before we could effect a reduction in force, we would need to negotiate with labor unions, demonstrate evidence of hardship or force majeure or obtain prior government approval, which may not be given in a timely manner or at all.
Our financial performance is dependent on international operations, which exposes us to various risks.
Our international operations account for nearly all of our total revenues. Our financial performance is subject to risks inherent in operating and expanding our international membership warehouse club business, which include:
changes in, and inconsistent enforcement of, laws and regulations, including those related to tariffs and taxes;
the imposition of foreign and domestic governmental controls, including expropriation risks;
trade restrictions, including import-export quotas and general restrictions on importation;
difficulty and costs associated with international sales and the administration of an international merchandising business;
crime and security concerns, which can adversely affect the economies of the countries in which we operate and which require us to incur additional costs to provide additional security at our warehouse clubs;
political instability, such as the protests and civil unrest in Colombia in 2022 and 2021, in Honduras and Nicaragua in 2019, and a general strike in Costa Rica in 2018;
product registration, permitting and regulatory compliance;
volatility in foreign currency exchange rates;
general economic and business conditions; and
interruption of our supply chain.
These risks may result in disruption to our sales, banking transactions, operations and merchandise shipments, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations. Political and other factors in each of our markets may have significant effects on our business. For example, the civil unrest in Colombia paralyzed significant portions of the country’s infrastructure as roadblocks and riots disrupted normal economic activity during the third quarter of fiscal 2021. Austerity and tax reform measures for Colombia and other Latin American countries with high national debt levels and income disparity pose a risk for political instability. Similar unrest happened in Nicaragua and Honduras in 2019, respectively; Costa Rica also had a general strike against tax reform measures that significantly impeded regular economic activity in 2018. Events of this sort have, and may continue to have, an adverse effect on our business.
We face significant competition.
Our international warehouse club business competes with exporters, importers, wholesalers, local retailers and trading companies in various international markets. Some of our competitors have greater resources, buying power and name recognition than we have. We also face competition from online retailers who serve our markets, and we expect that this type of competition will grow and intensify in the future.
In the countries in which we operate, we do not currently face direct competition from U.S. membership warehouse club operators. However, we do face competition from various retail formats such as hypermarkets, supermarkets, cash and carry outlets, home improvement centers, electronic retailers and specialty stores, including those within Latin America that are owned and operated by large U.S. and international retailers, including Walmart Inc. in Central America and Grupo Éxito and Cencosud in Colombia. We have noted that certain retailers are making investments in upgrading their locations which may result in increased competition. Further, it is possible that current U.S. warehouse club operators may decide to enter our markets and compete more directly with us in a similar warehouse club format. Our ability to operate profitably in our markets, particularly small markets, may be adversely affected by the existence or entry of competing warehouse clubs or discount retailers.
We compete in a variety of ways, including the value and prices at which we sell our merchandise, merchandise selection and availability, services offered to Members, location, store hours, safety protocols and the shopping convenience and overall shopping experience we offer. We may be required to implement price reductions to remain competitive if any of our competitors reduce prices in any of our markets. In response to the increasing threat associated with online retailers, we are making technology investments, which may result in increases in the use of cash and reduced profitability in the near term.
Our sales could be adversely affected if one or more major international online retailers were to enter our markets or if other competitors were to offer a superior online experience.
Although online sales are currently a smaller proportion of total sales in our markets for the types of merchandise we offer than in the U.S., online shopping is becoming more prevalent in our markets as we and our competitors begin to offer more opportunities for online shopping and as delivery systems in our markets improve. COVID-19 has accelerated the growth of online sales in our markets due to government-imposed restrictions on shopping and changes in consumer preferences. While major international online retailers have not established a significant penetration in any of our markets yet, Amazon.com, Inc. continues to expand its online marketplace and make additional investments to bolster its presence in the countries where we operate. Also, it is possible that Amazon.com, Inc. or smaller regional companies will increase the penetration of online shopping in our markets, especially given the importance of e-commerce during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We continue to invest in our websites and systems with the long-term objective of offering our Members a seamless omnichannel experience. We currently offer our Click & Go™ online shopping, which includes both curbside pickup and delivery are available in all markets. Operating an e-commerce platform and fulfilment of online orders is a complex undertaking, and there is no guarantee that the resources we have applied to this effort will result in increased revenues or improved operating performance. If we do not maintain a successful and relevant omni-channel experience for our Members, our ability to compete and our results of operations could be adversely affected.
We are exposed to significant weather events and other natural disaster risks that might not be adequately compensated by insurance, and we are susceptible to the long-term impacts of climate change.
Our operations are subject to volatile weather conditions and natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes and volcanic activity, which are encountered periodically in the regions in which our warehouse clubs and other facilities are located. Natural disasters could result in physical damage to, or the complete loss of, one or more of our properties, the closure of one or more clubs or distribution centers, limitations on store or club operating hours, the lack of an adequate work force in a market, the inability of customers and employees to reach our clubs, the unavailability of our digital platforms to our customers, disruption in the supply of products or increases in the costs of procuring products. For example, in early fiscal year 2018, operations at our USVI warehouse club were adversely affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The warehouse club was closed for nine days, and after re-opening, the warehouse club operated with limited hours for 16 days due to a government-imposed curfew. Damaged and destroyed roads restricted traffic flow, adversely affecting customer access for some time after the hurricane. Future losses from business interruption may not be adequately compensated by insurance and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations.
Furthermore, the long-term impacts of climate change, whether involving physical risks (such as extreme weather conditions, drought, or rising sea levels) or transition risks (such as regulatory or technology changes) are expected to be widespread and unpredictable. Physical risks include extreme storms that damage or destroy our buildings and inventory or interrupt our business operations and supply chain and temperature changes that increase the heating and cooling costs at clubs and distribution and fulfillment centers. We also may experience changes in energy and commodity prices driven by climate change as well as new regulatory requirements resulting in higher compliance risk and operational costs.
We face difficulties in the shipment of, and risks inherent in the importation of, merchandise to our warehouse clubs.
Our warehouse clubs typically import nearly half or more of the merchandise that they sell. This merchandise originates from various countries and is transported over long distances, over water and over land, which results in:
substantial lead times needed between the procurement and delivery of product, thus complicating merchandising and inventory controls;
the possible loss of product due to theft or potential damage to, or destruction of, ships or containers delivering goods;
product markdowns due to the prohibitive cost of returning merchandise upon importation;
product registration, tariffs, customs and shipping regulation issues in the locations we ship to and from;
ocean freight and duty costs; and
possible governmental restrictions on the importation of merchandise.
Civil unrest in certain countries in which we operate may adversely affect the flow of goods through those countries. For example, in April 2021, protestors in Colombia erected roadblocks inside and between major cities and damaged public transport, businesses and state buildings, which disrupted the normal flow of goods and economic activity. In 2019, political and civil unrest in Honduras and Nicaragua resulted in roadblocks in many portions of these countries. Any restriction in the movement of goods through Costa Rica’s ports or over Honduras and Nicaragua’s highways could impair our ability to supply warehouse clubs not just in those countries, but in countries throughout the region as well.
Moreover, each country in which we operate has different governmental rules and regulations regarding the importation of foreign products. Changes to the rules and regulations governing the importation of merchandise may result in additional delays, costs or barriers in our deliveries of products to our warehouse clubs or may affect the type of products we select to import. In addition, only a limited number of transportation companies service our regions. The inability or failure of one or more key transportation companies to provide transportation services to us, any collusion among the transportation companies regarding shipping prices or terms, changes in the regulations that govern shipping tariffs or the importation of products, or any other disruption to our ability to import our merchandise could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
We are subject to payment related risks, including risks to the security of payment card information.
We accept payments using an increasing variety of methods, including cash, checks, wire transfers, our co-branded credit cards and a variety of other credit and debit cards. Our operations, like those of most retailers, requires the transmission of information associated with cashless payments. As we offer new payment options to our Members, we may be subject to additional rules, regulations and compliance requirements, along with the risk of higher fraud losses. For certain payment methods, we pay interchange and other related card acceptance fees, along with additional transaction processing fees. We rely on third parties to provide secure and reliable payment transaction processing services, including the processing of credit and debit cards, and it could disrupt our business if these companies become unwilling or unable to provide these services to us. We are also subject to payment card association and network operating rules, including data security rules, certification requirements and rules governing electronic funds transfers, which could change over time. If we fail to comply with these rules or transaction processing requirements, we may not be able to accept certain payment methods. In addition, if our internal systems are breached or compromised, we may be liable for banks’ compromised card re-issuance costs, we may be subject to fines and higher transaction fees and lose our ability to accept credit and/or debit card payments from our Members, and our business and operating results could be adversely affected. Failures or disruptions in data communication and transfer services also could significantly impact our ability to transact payments to vendors and process credit and debit card transactions. Lastly, we or our customers may experience “spoofing” transactions, particularly with respect to wire transfers, which could cause us to make payments to impostor vendors or result in our not receiving timely payment from customers for merchandise we have sold.
We face the possibility of operational interruptions related to union work stoppages.
We currently have labor unions in three of our subsidiaries (Trinidad, Barbados and Panama). A work stoppage or other limitation on operations from union or other labor-related matters could occur for any number of reasons, including as a result of disputes under existing collective bargaining agreements with labor unions or in connection with negotiation of new collective bargaining agreements. A lengthy work stoppage or significant limitation on operations could have a substantial adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operation.
Risks Associated with Our Business Strategy and Operations
Any failure by us to manage our widely dispersed operations could adversely affect our business.
As of August 31, 2022, we had 50 warehouse clubs in operation, located in 12 countries and one U.S. territory (nine in Colombia, eight in Costa Rica and seven in Panama; five in the Dominican Republic and Guatemala, four in Trinidad; three in Honduras; two each in El Salvador, Jamaica and Nicaragua; and one each in Aruba, Barbados, and the United States Virgin Islands). We will need to continually evaluate the adequacy of our existing infrastructure, systems and procedures, financial controls, operating controls, inventory, and safety controls and make upgrades from time to time. Moreover, we will be required to continually analyze the sufficiency of our inventory distribution channels and systems and may require additional or expanded facilities in order to support our operations. We may not adequately anticipate all the changing demands that will be imposed on these systems. Any failure of our systems or our inability to effectively update our internal systems or procedures as required could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We might not identify in a timely manner or effectively respond to changes in consumer preferences for merchandise, which could adversely affect our relationship with Members, demand for our products and market share.
Our success depends, in part, on our ability to identify and respond to trends in demographics and changes in consumer preferences for merchandise. It is difficult to consistently and successfully predict the products and services our Members will demand. Failure to timely identify or respond effectively to changing consumer tastes, preferences or spending patterns could adversely affect our relationship with our Members, the demand for our products and our market share. If we are not successful at predicting sales trends and adjusting purchases accordingly, we might have too much or too little inventory of certain products. If we buy too much of a product, we might be required to reduce prices or otherwise liquidate the excess inventory, which could have an adverse effect on margins (net sales less merchandise costs) and operating income. If we do not have sufficient quantities of a popular product, we might lose sales and profits we otherwise could have made.
Future sales growth depends, in part, on our ability to successfully open new warehouse clubs in our existing and new markets.
Sales growth at existing warehouse clubs can be impacted by, among other things, the physical limitations of the warehouse clubs, which restrict the amount of merchandise that can be safely stored and displayed in the warehouse clubs and the number of Members that can be accommodated during business hours. As a result, sales growth will depend, in part, upon our acquiring suitable sites for additional warehouse clubs. Land for purchase or lease, or buildings to be leased, in the size and locations in those markets that would be suitable for new PriceSmart warehouse clubs may be limited in number or not be available or financially feasible. In this regard, we compete with other retailers and businesses for suitable locations. Additionally, local land use, environmental and other regulations restricting the construction and operation of our warehouse clubs may impact our ability to find suitable locations, and increase the cost of constructing, leasing and operating our warehouse clubs. We have experienced these limitations in Colombia and in some of our other existing markets, which has negatively affected our growth rates in those markets. Limitations on the availability of appropriate sites for new warehouse clubs in the areas targeted by us could have a material adverse effect on the future growth of PriceSmart.
In some cases, we have more than one warehouse club in a single metropolitan area, and we may open new warehouse clubs in certain areas where we already have warehouse clubs. A new warehouse club in an area already served by existing warehouse clubs may draw Members away from existing warehouse clubs and adversely affect comparable store sales performance. We operate in relatively small markets. Given the growth of our sales over the past few years, market saturation could impact the rate of future sales growth.
We might open warehouse clubs in new markets in the future. The risks associated with entering a new market include potential difficulties in attracting Members due to a lack of familiarity with us and our lack of familiarity with local Member preferences. In addition, entry into new markets may bring us into competition with new competitors or with existing competitors with a large, established market presence. As a result, our new warehouse clubs might not be successful in new markets.
Failure to grow our e-commerce business through the integration of physical and digital retail channels and the investments we are making to develop a robust e-commerce platform could materially adversely affect our market position, net sales and/or financial performance.
The retail business is quickly evolving, and consumers are increasingly embracing shopping online and through mobile commerce applications. As a result, the portion of total consumer expenditures with all retailers and wholesale clubs occurring online and through mobile commerce applications is increasing and the pace of this increase could accelerate. As demonstrated by our launch of our Click & Go™ curbside pickup and delivery service, and other ongoing investments, we are increasing our investments in e-commerce, technology and other customer initiatives. The success of our e-commerce initiative continues to depend in large measure on our ability to build and deliver a seamless shopping experience across the physical and digital retail channels. If we fail to successfully implement our e-commerce initiative, our market position, net sales and financial performance could be adversely affected. In addition, a greater concentration of e-commerce sales could result in a reduction in the amount of traffic in our warehouse clubs, which would, in turn, reduce the opportunities for cross-club sales of merchandise that such traffic creates and could reduce our sales within our clubs, materially adversely affecting the financial performance of the physical retail side of our operations. In addition, our investments in e-commerce and technology initiatives will adversely impact our short-term financial performance, and our failure to realize the benefits of these investments may adversely impact our financial performance over the longer term.
Our profitability is vulnerable to cost increases.
Future increases in costs, such as the cost of merchandise, wage and benefits costs, shipping rates, freight costs, fuel costs, utilities and other store occupancy costs, may reduce our profitability. We seek to adjust our product sales pricing, operate more efficiently, and increase our comparable store net sales to offset inflation, currency rate changes, changes in tax rates or in the methods used to calculate or collect taxes on our sales or income and other factors that can increase costs. We might not be able to adjust prices, operate more efficiently or increase our comparable store net sales in the future to a great enough extent to offset increased costs. In the first half of fiscal year 2022, we experienced significant increases in freight costs for our merchandise sourced overseas due to the global shortage of shipping containers and supply chain disruptions. Please see Part II. “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” of this Form 10-K for further discussion of the effect of currency rate changes, inflation and other economic factors on our operations.
We are subject to risks associated with our dependence on third-party suppliers and service providers, and we have no assurances of continued supply, pricing or access to new merchandise.
We have important ongoing relationships with various third-party suppliers of services and merchandise. These include, but are not limited to, local, regional, and international merchandise suppliers, information technology suppliers, equipment suppliers, financial institutions, credit card issuers and processors, and lessors. Significant changes in the relationships or the agreements that govern the terms through which business is conducted could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. We have no assurances of continued supply, pricing or access to new merchandise, and any supplier could at any time change the terms upon which it sells to us or discontinue selling to us. One of our significant suppliers operates a warehouse club business and may in the future seek to compete with us in some of our markets. In addition, the manner in which we acquire merchandise, either directly from the supplier’s parent company or through a local subsidiary or distributor, is subject to change from time to time based on changes initiated by the supplier and for reasons beyond our control. Significant changes or disruptions in how we acquire merchandise from these suppliers could negatively affect our access to such merchandise, as well as the cost of merchandise to us and hence our Members, which could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
Our failure to maintain our brand and reputation could adversely affect our results of operations.
Our success depends on our ability to continue to preserve and enhance our brand and reputation. Damage to the PriceSmart brand could adversely impact merchandise club sales, diminish Member trust, reduce Member renewal rates and impair our ability to add new Members. A failure to maintain and enhance our reputation also could lead to loss of new opportunities or employee retention and recruiting difficulties. Negative incidents, such as a data breach or product recall, can quickly erode trust and confidence, particularly if they result in adverse publicity, governmental investigations or litigation. In particular, the propagation of negative publicity on social media, whether merited or not, can have a damaging effect on our business in one or more markets. In addition, we sell many products under our private label Member’s Selection brand. If we do not maintain consistent product quality of our Member’s Selection products, which generally carry higher margins than national brand products carried in our warehouse clubs, our net warehouse sales and gross margin results could be adversely affected and Member loyalty could be harmed.
We face the risk of exposure to product liability claims, a product recall and adverse publicity.
If our merchandise, such as food and prepared food products for human consumption, medication, children's products, pet products and durable goods, do not meet or are perceived not to meet applicable safety standards or our Members’ expectations regarding safety, we could experience lost sales, increased costs, litigation or reputational harm. The sale of these items exposes us to the risk of product liability claims, a product recall and adverse publicity. We may inadvertently redistribute food products or prepare food products that are contaminated, which may result in illness, injury or death if the contaminants are not eliminated by processing at the food service or consumer level. We package and market fresh produce products within our markets, so we may be exposed to additional risk of product liability and adverse publicity if those fresh food products are contaminated, which may result in illness, injury or death if the contaminants are not eliminated by processing at our packaging service centers.
We generally seek contractual indemnification and proof of insurance from our major suppliers and carry product liability insurance for all products we sell to or package for our Members. However, if we do not have adequate insurance or contractual indemnification available, product liability claims relating to products that are contaminated or otherwise harmful could have a material adverse effect on our ability to successfully market our products and on our financial condition and results of operations. In addition, even if a product liability claim is not successful or is not fully pursued, the negative publicity surrounding a product recall or any assertion that our products caused illness or injury could have a material adverse effect on our reputation with existing and potential Members and on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We rely extensively on computer systems to process transactions, summarize results and manage our business. Failure to adequately maintain our systems and disruptions in our systems could harm our business and adversely affect our results of operations.
Given the high number of individual transactions we have each year, we seek to maintain uninterrupted operation of our business-critical computer systems. Our computer systems, including back-up systems, are subject to damage or interruption from power outages, computer and telecommunications failures, computer viruses, internal or external security breaches, catastrophic events such as fires, earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes, and errors by our employees. Our information systems are not fully redundant, and our disaster recovery planning cannot account for all eventualities. If our computer systems and back-up systems are damaged or cease to function properly, we may have to make significant investments to fix or replace them, and we may suffer interruptions in our operations in the interim. Any material interruption in our computer systems could have a material adverse effect on our business or results of operations.
We depend on third-party service providers to support transaction and payment processing, data security and other technology services. Any interruption in the operations of these service providers could, in turn, have a material adverse effect on us. For example, in 2022, a third party that supported our point-of-sale system became insolvent, which required us to quickly develop and implement short-term workarounds and delayed our migration to a cloud-based system integrating in-store and online functionality.
From time to time, we make technology investments to improve or replace our information processes and systems that are key to managing our business. The risk of system disruption is increased when system changes are undertaken. Targeting the wrong opportunities, failing to make the right investments, or making an investment commitment significantly above or below our needs could result in the loss of our competitive position and adversely impact our financial condition and results of operations. Additionally, the potential problems and interruptions associated with implementing technology initiatives could disrupt or reduce the efficiency of our operations in the short term. These initiatives might not provide the anticipated benefits or may provide them on a delayed schedule or at a higher cost.
Several years ago, we began evaluating options to replace our existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. However, we have intentionally deferred this project as originally contemplated in order to more holistically assess our overall IT landscape and strategy. Not updating our systems on a timely basis could leave us at a disadvantage relative to our competitors. Our current ERP system is not supported by the developer of the software, which could increase the risk of a system disruption. In addition, there are newer versions available from the vendors of some of our other internal systems offering greater functionality and reliability which we have not yet implemented. We also continue to rely on other systems we developed internally a number of years ago, which will require us to migrate to more industry-standard technologies. During the last three years, we have been updating critical enterprise systems in a way that separates our e-commerce, logistics, reporting, membership and costing systems from our dated ERP system in an effort to simplify the migration to a new ERP system and minimize disruptions. As we have separated and updated these new systems, we have sought to improve functionality and reliability, while simultaneously reducing our dependency on legacy software, including our current ERP system. Nevertheless, these updates and a transition to a new ERP system will require a significant investment by us, and any failure by us to effectively design, implement and transition to new systems may adversely affect operations, Member satisfaction or sales.
Any failure by us to maintain the security of the information that we hold relating to our company, Members, employees and vendors, could damage our reputation with them, could disrupt our operations, could cause us to incur substantial additional costs and to become subject to litigation and could materially adversely affect our operating results.
We receive, retain, and transmit personal information about our Members and employees and entrust that information to third-party business associates, including cloud service-providers that perform activities for us. In addition, we and our third-party service providers store and maintain health-related personal information, pharmacy, and medical records in connection with our health and wellness and pharmacy businesses. We also utilize third-party service providers for a variety of reasons, including, without limitation, cloud services, back-office support, and other functions. In addition, our online operations depend upon the secure transmission of confidential information over public networks, including information permitting cashless payments. Each year, computer hackers, cyber terrorists, and others make numerous attempts to access the information stored in companies’ information systems. The increased use of remote work infrastructure due to the COVID-19 pandemic has also increased cybersecurity risk.
The use of data by our business and our business associates is regulated in all of our operating countries. Privacy and information-security laws and regulations change, and compliance with them may result in cost increases due to, among other things, systems changes and the development of new processes. If we or those with whom we share information fail to comply with these laws and regulations, we could be subjected to legal risk as a result of non-compliance.
We or our third-party service providers may be unable to anticipate one or more of the rapidly evolving and increasingly sophisticated means by which computer hackers, cyber terrorists and others may attempt to defeat our security measures or those of our third-party service providers and breach our or our third-party service providers' information systems. Cyber threats are rapidly evolving and are becoming increasingly sophisticated. As cyber threats evolve and become more difficult to detect and successfully defend against, one or more hackers, cyber terrorists or others might defeat our security measures or those of our third-party service providers and obtain the personal information of Members, employees and vendors that we hold or to which our third-party service providers have access, and we or our third-party service providers may not discover any security breach and loss of information for a significant period of time after the security breach occurs. We or one of our third-party service providers also may be subject to a ransomware or cyber-extortion attack, which could significantly disrupt our operations. In the enterprise context, ransomware attacks involve restricting access to computer systems or vital data until a ransom is paid. Error or malfeasance by our employees and consultants, faulty password management or other irregularities may result in a defeat of our or our third-party service providers’ security measures and breach our or our third-party service providers’ information systems (whether digital or otherwise).
Any breach of our security measures or those of our third-party service providers and loss of our confidential information, which could be undetected for a period of time, or any failure by us to comply with applicable privacy and information security laws and regulations, could cause us to incur significant costs to protect any Members and/or employees whose personal data was compromised and to restore Member and employee confidence in us and to make changes to our information systems and administrative processes to address security issues and compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
In addition, such events could have a material adverse effect on our reputation with our Members, employees, vendors and stockholders, as well as our operations, results of operations, financial condition and liquidity, could result in the release to the public of confidential information about our operations and financial condition and performance and could result in litigation against us or the imposition of penalties or liabilities. Moreover, a security breach could require us to devote significant management resources to address the problems created by the security breach and to expend significant additional resources to upgrade further the security measures that we employ to guard such important personal information against cyberattacks and other attempts to access such information, resulting in a disruption of our operations.
Business acquisitions or divestitures and new business initiatives could adversely impact the Company’s performance.
From time to time, we may consider acquisition opportunities and new business initiatives. During fiscal year 2018, we acquired Aeropost, Inc. (“Aeropost”). Acquisitions and new business initiatives involve certain inherent risks, including the failure to retain key personnel from an acquired business; undisclosed or subsequently arising liabilities or accounting, internal control, regulatory or compliance issues associated with an acquired business; challenges in the successful integration of operations, and alignment of standards, policies and systems; future developments that may impair the value of our purchased goodwill or intangible assets; and the potential diversion of management resources from existing operations to respond to unforeseen issues arising in the context of the integration of a new business or initiative.
We sold the legacy casillero and marketplace businesses operated by Aeropost in October 2021. In connection with this sale, we retained the technology and intellectual property rights required for the furtherance of our business interest in PriceSmart.com and related capabilities. We also retained the individuals formerly employed by Aeropost who we believed would best support PriceSmart’s objectives. We could incur unforeseen expenses or other issues in connection with the separation of these businesses. In addition, we and the buyer of the legacy casillero and marketplace businesses have agreed to indemnify each other for any breach of representations and warranties we made to one another in the purchase agreement.
On August 5, 2022, PriceSmart received notice from Click USA Inc. and Aeropost, Inc. alleging that PriceSmart had breached certain provisions of a Stock Purchase Agreement between PriceSmart and Click USA, Inc. dated October 1, 2021, concerning the sale of Aeropost, Inc. to Click USA Inc. In this notice, Click USA Inc. and Aeropost, Inc. allege that PriceSmart made inaccurate or incomplete representations and warranties relating to Aeropost, Inc.’s cyber security and the condition of its IT systems in connection with the sale. Click USA Inc. and Aeropost, Inc. further asserted that, in or around April 2022, Aeropost, Inc. suffered cyberattacks, and they seek to hold PriceSmart liable for some amount of damages due to alleged losses directly relating to the cyber-attacks as well as due to possible third-party claims as a result of the cyber-attacks. The notice suggested that aggregate losses attributable to these losses and future claims could exceed $3,000,000. Per the express terms of the agreement, the maximum amount of all losses for which PriceSmart may be liable for claims arising out of allegations concerning the above-referenced representations and warranties is $4,000,000. PriceSmart intends to vigorously defend itself and, as such, we have concluded that a loss related to this matter is not probable and any potential loss is not reasonably estimable; therefore, we have not accrued a liability for this matter.
Failure to attract and retain qualified employees could materially adversely affect our financial performance.
Our success depends, to a significant degree, on the continued contributions of Members of our senior management and other key operations, merchandising and administrative personnel, and the loss of any such persons could have a material adverse effect on our business. We must attract, develop and retain a growing number of qualified employees, while controlling related labor costs and maintaining our core values. We compete with other retail and non-retail businesses for these employees and invest significant resources in training and motivating them. There is no assurance that we will be able to adequately attract, develop and retain highly qualified employees in the future or to execute management transitions when members of the Company’s senior leadership retire or otherwise leave the Company, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. We do not maintain life or disability insurance for our key executives.
Legal and Compliance Risks
We face compliance risks related to our international operations.
In the United States and within the international markets where we operate, there are multiple laws and regulations that relate to our business and operations. These laws and regulations are subject to change, and any failure by us to effectively manage our operations and reporting obligations as required by the various laws and regulations can result in our incurring significant legal costs and fines as well as disruptions to our business and operations. Such failure could also result in investors’ loss of confidence in us, which could have a material adverse effect on our stock price.
In foreign countries in which we have operations, a risk exists that our employees, contractors or agents could, in contravention of our policies, engage in business practices prohibited by U.S. laws and regulations applicable to us, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the laws and regulations of other countries. We maintain policies prohibiting such business practices and have in place global anti-corruption compliance programs designed to ensure compliance with these laws and regulations. Nevertheless, we remain subject to the risk that one or more of our employees, contractors or agents, including those based in or from countries where practices that violate such U.S. laws and regulations or the laws and regulations of other countries may be customary, will engage in business practices that are prohibited by our policies or circumvent our compliance programs and, by doing so, violate such laws and regulations. Any violations of anti-corruption laws, even if prohibited by our internal policies, could adversely affect our reputation, business, or financial performance.
We could be subject to additional tax liabilities or subject to reserves on the recoverability of tax receivables.
We compute our income tax based on enacted tax rates in the countries in which we operate. As the tax rates vary among countries, a change in earnings attributable to the various jurisdictions in which we operate could result in an unfavorable change in our overall taxes. Changes in tax laws, increases in the enacted tax rates, adverse outcomes in connection with tax audits in any jurisdiction, or any change in the pronouncements relating to accounting for income taxes could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. In two countries, there have been changes in the method of computing minimum tax payments, under which the governments have sought to require the Company to pay taxes based on a percentage of sales rather than income. As a result, the Company has made and may continue to make income tax payments substantially in excess of those it would expect to pay based on taxable income, and the rules that allow the Company to obtain refunds or to offset payments that are substantially in excess of taxes payable based on taxable income are unclear or complex. We, together with our tax and legal advisers, are currently appealing these interpretations. However, if we do not prevail in these efforts, we may be required to establish a valuation reserve against these tax receivables and take an accompanying charge, which would adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations. In the meantime, we are taking other actions to recover excess taxes paid or withheld and to limit further increases in these receivables, including the possibility that we might choose in one of the jurisdictions to make income tax payments using the original computation based on a percentage of taxable income in advance of a favorable court ruling.
We file federal and state tax returns in the United States and various other tax returns in foreign jurisdictions. The preparation of these tax returns requires us to interpret the applicable tax laws and regulations in effect in such jurisdictions, which affects the amount of tax we pay. We, in consultation with our tax advisors, base our tax returns on interpretations that we believe to be reasonable under the prevailing circumstances. However, our tax returns are subject to routine reviews by the various taxing authorities in the jurisdictions in which we file our returns. As part of these reviews, a taxing authority may disagree with respect to the interpretations we used to calculate our tax liability and therefore require us to pay additional taxes.
A few of our stockholders own approximately 16.5% of our voting stock as of August 31, 2022, which may make it difficult to complete some corporate transactions without their support and may impede a change in control.
Robert E. Price, the Company’s Chairman of the Board, and affiliates of Mr. Price, including Price Philanthropies, The Price Group, LLC, The Robert & Allison Price Charitable Remainder Trust and various other trusts, collectively beneficially own approximately 16.5% of our outstanding shares of common stock. Of this amount, approximately 74.8% (i.e., 12.3% of our total outstanding shares) is held by charitable entities. As a result of their beneficial ownership, these stockholders have the ability to significantly affect the outcome of all matters submitted to our stockholders for approval, including the election of directors. In addition, this ownership could discourage the acquisition of our common stock by potential investors and could have an anti- takeover effect, possibly depressing the trading price of our common stock.
Financial and Accounting Risks
We are subject to volatility in foreign currency exchange rates and limits on our ability to convert foreign currencies into U.S. dollars.
As of August 31, 2022, we had a total of 50 warehouse clubs operating in 12 foreign countries and one U.S. territory, 40 of which operate under currencies other than the U.S. dollar. For fiscal year 2022, approximately 78.0% of our net merchandise sales were in foreign currencies. We may enter into additional foreign countries in the future or open additional locations in existing countries, which may increase the percentage of net merchandise sales denominated in foreign currencies.
Our consolidated financial statements are denominated in U.S. dollars, and to prepare those financial statements we must translate the amounts of the assets, liabilities, net sales, other revenues, and expenses of our operations outside of the U.S. from foreign currencies into U.S. dollars using exchange rates for the current period. As a result of such translations, fluctuations in currency exchange rates from period-to-period may result in our consolidated financial statements reflecting significant adverse period-over-period changes in our financial performance or reflecting a period-over-period improvement in our financial performance that is not as robust as it would be without such fluctuations in the currency exchange rates.
In addition, devaluing foreign local currencies compared to the U.S. dollar could negatively impact the purchasing power of our Members for imported merchandise in those countries. Merchandise imported into our markets is generally purchased by the Company in U.S. dollars and priced and sold in the local currency of that country. If the local currency devalues against the U.S. dollar, we may elect to increase prices in the local currency to maintain our target margins, making the products more expensive for our Members. We may also decide to reduce or modify the flow of merchandise into those markets. Depending on the severity of the devaluation and corresponding price increase (as experienced in Colombia in 2015, 2020, and 2022), the demand for, and sales of, those products could be negatively impacted.
Finally, the ability of the Company to convert local currency into U.S. dollars to settle U.S. dollar invoices can be impacted in certain markets due to economic factors or government policies creating illiquidity of the local currency. This has been the case in Trinidad in fiscal years 2017, 2020, and 2021, which led us to reduce shipments from the U.S. to Trinidad to amounts that our Trinidad subsidiary could pay for using the amount of tradeable currency that could be sourced in that market, resulting in lost sales.
As of August 31, 2022, our Trinidad subsidiary had Trinidad dollar denominated cash and cash equivalents and short and long-term investments measured in U.S. dollars of approximately $25.0 million, a decrease of $27.9 million from August 31, 2021, when these same balances were approximately $52.9 million. The Trinidad central bank manages the exchange rate of the Trinidad dollar with the U.S. dollar. While the Trinidad government has publicly stated it has no intention to devalue the Trinidad dollar, it could in the future decide to devalue the currency to improve market liquidity, resulting in a devaluation in the U.S. dollar value of these cash and investments balances. If, for example, a hypothetical 20% devaluation of the Trinidad dollar were to occur, the value of our Trinidad dollar cash and investments position, measured in U.S. dollars, would decrease by approximately $5.0 million, with a corresponding increase in Accumulated other comprehensive loss reflected on our consolidated balance sheet. Separate from the Trinidad dollar denominated cash and investments balances described above, as of August 31, 2022, we had a U.S. dollar denominated monetary asset position of approximately $80.3 million in Trinidad (net of U.S. dollar denominated liabilities), which would produce a gain from a potential devaluation of Trinidad dollars. If, for example, a hypothetical 20% devaluation of the Trinidad dollar occurred, the net effect on other income (expense), net on our consolidated statement of operations of revaluing these U.S. dollar denominated net monetary assets would be an approximate $16.1 million gain. While we may pay premiums or enter into financial transactions at a discount from the official government rate to convert our Trinidad dollars into U.S. dollars, we use the official exchange rate published by the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago to measure the U.S. dollar equivalent of Trinidad dollar-based revenues, expenses, assets and liabilities and the Trinidad dollar equivalent of U.S. dollar-based monetary assets and liabilities for financial reporting purposes, as there are no other reliable references available to translate or remeasure our revenues, expenses, assets and liabilities.
Volatility and uncertainty regarding the currencies and economic conditions in the countries where we operate could have a material impact on our operations in future periods.
Changes in accounting standards and assumptions, projections, estimates and judgments by management related to complex accounting matters could significantly affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Generally accepted accounting principles and related accounting pronouncements, implementation guidelines and interpretations with regard to a wide range of matters that are relevant to our business are highly complex and involve many subjective assumptions, projections, estimates and judgments by our management. These include, but are not limited to assumptions, projections, estimates and judgements related to contingencies and litigation, income taxes, value added taxes, and long-lived assets. Changes in these rules or their interpretation or changes in underlying assumptions, projections, estimates or judgments by our management could significantly change our reported or expected financial performance.
For example, because of Accounting Standards Update ASU 2016-02 – Leases (Topic 842), which the Company adopted September 1, 2019, the Company is required to recognize a “Right-of-Use” (ROU) asset and lease liability for each of the Company’s long-term leases. Accounting Standard Codification (ASC) 842 requires that the ROU asset be designated as a non-monetary asset and the lease liability as a monetary liability. Therefore, when accounting for a lease that is denominated in a foreign currency, if remeasurement into the lessee’s functional currency is required, the lease liability is remeasured using the current exchange rate. We have leases in several of our subsidiaries in which the lease payments are denominated in a foreign currency that is not the functional currency of that entity. Therefore, we are subject to additional volatility in foreign currency exchange rates as a result of this accounting standard update. The monetary lease liability subject to revaluation as of August 31, 2022 was $32.4 million. Due to the mix of foreign currency exchange rate fluctuations during fiscal 2022, the impact to the consolidated statements of income of revaluing this liability was immaterial.
Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments
Item 2. Properties
At August 31, 2022, PriceSmart operated 50 membership warehouse clubs, as detailed below:
CENTRAL AMERICA SEGMENT
U.S. Virgin Islands
(1)We are currently constructing and plan to open warehouse clubs in San Miguel, El Salvador in Spring 2023 and in Medellín, Colombia in the summer of 2023. We own the land for each and expect to own each of the buildings upon its completion.
Although we have entered into real estate leases in the past and will likely do so in the future, our preference is to own rather than lease real estate. We lease land and in some cases land and buildings when appropriate sites within market areas are not available to purchase. The term on these leases generally run for 20 to 30 years and contain options to renew from 5 to 20 years. We actively seek to secure lease extensions or find suitable replacement properties before our leases expire. We have successfully negotiated extensions in the past and believe we will continue to be able to do so in the future; however, each lease renewal is subject to its own facts and circumstances, so we cannot be sure that we will be able to renew each lease on economically favorable terms.
As of August 31, 2022, sales floors of the Company’s warehouse club buildings occupied a total of approximately 2,484,126 square feet, of which 430,588 square feet were on leased property.
We operate two large regional distribution centers, one in Miami, Florida and the other in San Jose, Costa Rica, along with several smaller local distribution centers for the consolidation and distribution of merchandise shipments to our warehouse clubs. Our corporate headquarters is located in San Diego, California, and we maintain other regional offices in the Miami distribution facility and our international locations. We own our regional distribution facility in Miami, Florida, but we otherwise lease most non-warehouse club facilities and expect to continue to lease these types of facilities as we expand. Our leases for non-warehouse club facilities typically provide for initial lease terms between five and 30 years, with options to extend. We believe this leasing strategy for non-warehouse club facilities enhances our flexibility to pursue expansion opportunities when the needs of our business require. As current leases expire, we believe that we will be able to obtain lease renewals, if desired, for these present locations, or to obtain leases for equivalent or better locations in the same general area.
Item 3. Legal Proceedings
We are often involved in claims arising in the ordinary course of business seeking monetary damages and other relief. Based upon information currently available to us, none of these claims is expected to have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations. Refer to Part II. “Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data: Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements, Note 9 – Commitments and Contingencies ” for additional information regarding our legal proceedings.
Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures
Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
The Company's common stock has been quoted and traded on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol “PSMT” since September 2, 1997. As of October 21, 2022, there were approximately 24,689 holders of record of the common stock.
2022 FISCAL QUARTERS
2021 FISCAL QUARTERS
Recent Sales of Unregistered Securities
There were no sales of unregistered securities during the fiscal year ended August 31, 2022.
The Company anticipates the ongoing payment of semi-annual dividends in subsequent periods, although the actual declaration of future dividends, the amount of such dividends, and the establishment of record and payment dates is subject to final determination by the Board of Directors at its discretion after its review of the Company’s financial performance and anticipated capital requirements, taking into account all relevant factors, including, but not limited to, the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our results of operations and cash flows.
Repurchase of Equity Securities
Upon vesting of restricted stock awarded by the Company to employees, the Company repurchases shares and withholds the amount of the repurchase payment to cover employees’ tax withholding obligations.
As set forth in the table below, during fiscal year 2022, the Company repurchased a total of 88,415 shares in the indicated months. These were the only repurchases of equity securities made by the Company during fiscal 2022. The Company does not have a stock repurchase program.