PriceSmart Warehouse Club Opens Store

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Inside PriceSmart
Inside PriceSmart
PriceSmart Warehouse Club in Medellín
PriceSmart Warehouse Club in Medellín

A new, large membership warehouse club recently opened in Medellín with good prices and a wide selection of imported items.

The PriceSmart membership warehouse club opened its first large warehouse club store in Medellín on November 24. The company invested approximately $20 million to open its newest warehouse club store.

I was able to visit the store the second day it was open and I was impressed.

Inside PriceSmart
Inside PriceSmart

What is PriceSmart?

PriceSmart is similar to a Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s Wholesale Club found in the U.S. It is also similar to the Makro found in Medellín but I believe the new PriceSmart store is larger than Makro.

PriceSmart is the largest membership warehouse club in Central America and the Carribbean with 36 stores. The company is headquartered in San Diego, California.

The company also has warehouse stores in Colombia located in Barranquilla, Bogotá, Cali and Pereira. The company’s Bogotá store opened in October.

PriceSmart is planning to open two more warehouse stores in Colombia in the next 12-18 months, perhaps a second store in Bogotá as well as a second store in Medellín.

The company thinks that Medellín could eventually support three or four more stores if the company can find ideal locations.

The company also has over 30 additional warehouse stores located in Auba, Barbados, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago and U.S. Virgin Islands.

The television section
The television section

What Does PriceSmart Sell?

PriceSmart sells a wide range of products including electronics (televisions, cameras, video games, audio/visual equipment), automotive products, sports equipment, appliances, furniture, clothing and office equipment.

PriceSmart also sells grocery items in roughly half of the large warehouse store. The grocery items are typically in large, wholesale size packages.

You can find several grocery brands imported from the U.S. that I haven’t seen in other stores in Medellín. For example, some of the brands I saw included Pace Picante sauce, Ruffles potato chips, Butterball turkeys, Edwards Key Lime pies and Red Barron frozen pizzas.

One of the grocery aisles
One of the grocery aisles

What About Pricing at PriceSmart?

Warehouse club stores are able to keep prices low due to the no-frills format of the stores. When I was walking around the new PriceSmart warehouse store I overheard several Colombians saying, “tan barato” (so cheap).

I didn’t have much time in the store during my first visit but I did pick up a few grocery items with the following costs:

  • 2-pack Pace Picante sauce (each 38 oz.) for 16,900 pesos ($7.82)
  • Ruffles potato chips (15 oz. bag) for 10,900 pesos ($5.04)
  • Vlasic dill pickles (46 oz.) for 6,900 pesos ($3.19)

I noticed several people buying televisions and checked the prices. The largest TV they sell is a massive 90” Sharp LCD television that costs 13,579,900 pesos ($6,281).

I also saw a Sony 50” LCD television that cost 1,479,900 pesos ($684) and a Hitachi 50” LCD television that cost 1,389,900 ($643), which are lower prices than I have seen in other stores in Medellín for similar 50” televisions.

What Does the PriceSmart Membership Cost?

PriceSmart offers two types of memberships. The Diamond membership is good for personal use and for the cost of 65,000 peso ($30) you get membership cards for two people.

They also have a Business membership, which costs 55,000 pesos ($25) with additional members at 20,000 pesos each.

It took about 15 minutes for me to sign up for a membership with a line of about 15 people on the second day they were open.

I expect that I will likely shop at PriceSmart with my girlfriend perhaps once a month to stock up on items we use frequently. I think just buying the large, wholesale size packages at PriceSmart will likely save us the cost of the membership in a month or two.

Where is PriceSmart Located?

The new PriceSmart warehouse club is located in the La Mota barrio of Belén on Carrera 70 at Calle 1. It is located near the Enrique Olaya Herrera airport.

The company chose the location in a growing area of Belén with many new apartment buildings being built nearby – especially in Loma de los Bernal.

PriceMart checkout lines
PriceMart checkout lines

The Bottom Line

The new PriceSmart warehouse store in Medellín was pretty busy when I went on the second day it was open with many people there checking out the new store.

The store had many checkout lines open so it was quick to checkout. I noticed many customers checking out with full baskets.

I expect PriceSmart will be popular based on what I saw in my initial visit with some good prices to be found and a wide selection of products. About 70 percent of the items the store sells are imported so you can find many items that may be difficult to find in other stores in Medellín.

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20 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for covering this it looks like a nice store based on the photos. I plan to check it out tomorrow and look for more of the brands from the U.S.

  2. Thank you for this article and all the others you have written.
    We do have a PriceSmart here in Aruba but the prices are about three times the ones you have listed. Another reason why I can’t wait to make the move.

  3. Yes, thanks for this story. I can’t wait to go! I haul a lot of stuff in from the US, and it looks like I’ll be able to lighten my load a lot. I perused their website, and it looks like they have a lot of brands that I like (Bounty towels, Vlasic pickles, MIni-Wheats!!). The big kicker is that they have Pampers Diapers, which I have never been able to find in Colombia. Most of the pricing is a little higher (5-30%) than for the same or comparable in Sam’s Club in the US, but I’m getting tired of dragging 200 pounds of luggage home with me on every trip. Some of the stuff was the same price too (Duracell batteries).

    There was one disappointment. I had hoped that I could stop hauling cat food, but a 22 pound bag of Purina Cat Chow that costs $18 in the US is COP$71,000 on the website. That’s still a better price than I’ve seen anywhere in Colombia, but still a huge difference. Does anybody know why cat food is so expensive here?

    • UPDATE:

      I went there with the family yesterday. It was better than I had hoped. Essentially, it is a slightly smaller version of Sam’s Club. The big surprise was how many products that I buy at Sams are here. I’m used to most USA brands being on specialty shelves in supermarkets and priced like a luxury product. The prices here are a somewhat higher, but when you remember that the sales tax (IVA) is baked into the price and not tacked on at the register, the difference is not so great. I am curious to see if and how the fall of the peso changes this.

      For those of you loyal to Colombia, please don’t take offense – I love living in Colombia and expect to be here to the end of my days, but it’s nice to have the best of both worlds.

      NOTE: They do have a lot of familiar Colombian/South American brands as well, but the prices were not a huge discount from what I see in supermarkets. I think one problem is that the local companies often don’t have the bulk packaging that the clubs need. Many of the offerings that I saw were in typical supermarket quantities.

      Some of the highlights for me:
      – Bounty paper towels in a 12 pack at prices much lower than you pay for any normal roll of paper towels in Colombia.
      – Heinz Ketchup. You see it here sometimes, but this is the huge bottle at US prices.
      – Pampers diapers – I have never found them here before. I know most people here don’t have babies, but believe me, these are the best. Earlier this year, my wife tried to talk me into moving up one of my trips to the States by a week because she was afraid we would run out.
      – Dawn dish washing liquid – Actually not that exciting, because I like Salvo just fine, but my wife is a big fan.
      – Land-o-Lakes Aerosol Whipped Cream – 3 pack of big cans for about $8.00, which I think is about the same as the USA.
      – Cheeses of all kinds in bulk at very good prices. The highlight was Parmesan for COP$16,900 per pound and pepperjack cheese, which I never see here. There are lots of cheddar cheeses and American-Style mozzarella.
      – Philadelphia Brand cream cheese. For me the local brands are fine, but my daughter was thrilled
      – A big selection of spices and other seasonings like you find in USA club stores and good prices.
      – Idahoan Mashed Potato Flakes – Not as good as real mashed potatoes made with Russetts, but better than anything you can make with the high-wax potatoes sold here. I had hoped they would have Russet Potatoes, but no luck there.
      – Brownie mix – I can’t remember the brand, but it was the somewhat well known chocolate company (in the USA) that starts with a “G.” We already had plenty of Hershey’s mix on hand, so that will wait until the next trip.
      – Nuts of various kinds (Almonds for me) in bulk at prices much lower than I have ever seen here.
      – Jif peanut butter (crunchy and regular)
      – Lots of choices of cereal.
      – Keebler crackers
      – Frozen eggrolls, taquitos, quesadillas, fried shrimp and waffles.

      There are a lot of other things too, but this is what I remember off the top of my head.

      The wine selection was pretty extensive, but not more than I’ve seen in Consumo, and the prices were not anything special.

      The fresh meats looked pretty spectacular, with beef, pork and chicken laid out in big packs. It was nice to see fresh chicken. Where we live, anyway, I only see frozen. They also had a big bakery section. I haven’t eaten any of the baked goods yet, but my family reports they are delicious.

      If you miss this stuff, or you want to open a USA-Style diner restaurant in Medellin, this is the place to go.

  4. I went a second time and noticed that a few items the store had the first time I was there were no longer in stock. I asked an employee, who told me they already have been quickly selling out of some items before they receive a new shipment. For example, they didn’t have the Vlasic dill pickles they had the first time I went.

  5. Compared to Carulla and Exito, the trip to Medellin from El Retiro to visit PriceSmart was worth the trip. For the past couple of years, we’ve been importing many things, through a Florida shipping company, which we saw on the shelves at PriceSmart. I wish we had known about this place before having our new lawn mower, ironing board, and handcart shipped. They have products I haven’t seen other places such as the Sharp Cheddar Cheese by the pound for a decent price. They have a lot of Kirkland brand items. I stocked up on the salad dressings: blue cheese, ranch and thousand island, as many salad dressings I find here are not as creamy. And for only 13,000 pesos, you can buy a huge (I think a litre) of pancake/waffle syrup. I also stocked up on the cashews. The almonds, cashews and pistachios were priced much lower than what I’ve seen in other stores here. I was hoping for a bigger selection of alcohol, and better prices. You can still do much better at La Careta for all alcohol. I think the Jack Daniels was over 60,000 pesos for a 750 ml bottle, and tanqueray gin was around the same for the 750 ml bottle; whereas, at La Careta, the litre bottle of Jack Daniels, and litre bottle of tanqueray, is around 43,000 pesos – duty free prices. I still like all the other items and prices and the store had such as big bags of flour (15 kg bag for 18,600 – Carulla has the 2.5kg bag for 6,100) – I bake daily, large selection of spices, chocolate chips are in large bags, and other chocolate selections such as Ghiradelli, Hershey, and Cadbury, in reasonably priced quantities. They have corn oil, canola oil, and olive oil in the large gallon-type containers. I was in awe at all the store had to offer after living here for two years, and being away from the big box stores of the states. I more than recovered my membership fee on my first trip to the store in cost savings.

  6. I just moved end of last year into Medellin from Quebec, and very glad to find out about this Pricesmart too, thanks for your good sounding comments, address, etc….

  7. Anything has to be better than my local Exito supermarket in Los Molinos. I’ve travelled to many places in the world, and believe me they have the slowest cashiers in the world. It takes about 5 times longer to get through checkout as say a typical UK supermarket. Theres always a problem – the till paper has run out, it won’t accept a card, the cashier just ups and leaves for no apparent reason, the price on a product isn’t being accepted etc etc. and then in general the cashiers are so damned slow!!! arrgh…I can’t understand why colombians tolerate such crappy service. A UK supermarket would go go out of business in a week if it offered such poor service

  8. for jeff
    i’m curious what you did for a living while living in medellin….my husband and i recently relocated to medellin and i’m wondering what would be a good route to go for him since he doesn’t speak a word in spanish and also what kind of jobs are there in the U.S with location flexibility as it says about yourself.thanks for sharing
    vanessa G.

    • I am still living in Medellín (actually in Sabaneta, the southern suburb now) with the same job in US I have had for over 8 years. I work as a research analyst and in the US I worked out of my home and it’s no different than when I live here – I work out of the home and all I need is high speed Internet and a phone to do my job.

      I have met others living here working for technology firms remotely doing programing and website development and other IT jobs. Also have met some writers and copy editors. It’s best to have such a job before you get here as it’s more difficult to find one once you are here.