8 things you didn’t know about Costco

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Some of these facts may surprise even the most devoted Costco fan.


Key points

  • Costco is full of surprises – not only are there ways to shop there without being a member, but you can also book a Costco vacation.
  • The grocery store has built an almost cult following with its low-cost food court and dedication to quality at low prices.
  • Accumulating discounts is a good way to save more on daily purchases.

Costco, oh Costco, where would we be without you? All over the country, people are addicted to its low-priced staples, free samples, Kirkland products, and most importantly, rotisserie chicken and hot dogs.

Maybe you are a compulsive Costcoer who bought a car through Costco, wear glasses from the Costco optician, and insured your home, pet and life through Costco insurance services. Even so, our peek behind the curtain at Costco might contain a thing or two that surprise you too.

1. You don’t need to be a member to shop on Costco

A Costco subscription will cost you at least $ 60 per year ($ 120 for the executive option). But there are ways around it, especially if you want to test the Costco waters before committing. The most obvious way for non-members to shop on Costco is to go with someone who is a member. But that’s not always practical, especially since the Costco cardholder has to make purchases.

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Another is to use a Costco gift card, although you will need to convince a member to purchase it for you. Costco Shop cards range from as little as $ 25 to as high as $ 1,000. And anyone can use the Costco pharmacy, regardless of their state of affiliation. In some states, this also applies to alcohol purchases. Finally, non-members can pay a 5% surcharge to experience the joys of Costco online shopping.

2. Costco’s “secret weapon” is a hot dog

Costco sold over 122 million hot dogs and sodas last year, and retail experts say the $ 1.50 deal is one of the reasons for the chain’s success. The price hasn’t risen in over 30 years, and founder Jim Sinegal says it’s not something Costco will mess with. The same goes for his $ 4.99 rotisserie chicken, the bird with his Facebook following. Despite the increase in poultry prices, the price of this chook will not change.

3. There are big brands behind some Kirkland products, but Gray Goose vodka is not one

From Starbucks to Jelly Belly, Kirkland has partnered with big names to offer its customers its high-quality, exclusive products at low prices. You’ll see some of the collaborations right there on the package, but others are closely guarded secrets. A MoneyWise article confirmed that Duracell makes Kirkland batteries, Kimberly-Clark is behind its diapers, and Diamond Pet Foods makes dog food. However, contrary to social media rumors, Gray Goose does not make Kirkland’s vodka.

4. You can save more by accumulating discounts and rewards

As with many of your grocery purchases, layering rewards and offers can generate big savings. Costco does not accept manufacturer coupons, but offers in-store discounts called “instant savings.” You can stack them with refund apps that reward all your purchases, even discounted ones. Credit card rewards are slightly more complicated as Costco only accepts certain cards in store. However, these restrictions don’t apply online – you can use any credit card to pay on Costco.com or using the app.

5. Nearly a third of Costco stores are overseas

Costco operates 838 warehouses worldwide and only 578 are located in the United States and Puerto Rico. Costco’s network extends to Australia, where it has 13 stores. There are 107 Costcos in Canada, 40 in Mexico, 31 in Japan and 29 in the UK. It also has stores in Korea, Taiwan, Spain, France, China and even Iceland.

6. 91% of its US customers renew their membership

Costco has over 100 million members, and the vast majority of them aren’t going anywhere. According to its 2021 annual report, member renewal rates were 91% in the United States and Canada and 89% in the rest of the world. Revenues from its membership dues amounted to $ 3.9 billion last year. To put it in context, its net sales were $ 192 billion and its net profit for the year was $ 5 billion. It would be easy to think that membership dues made up nearly 80% of its income, but that doesn’t take into account the amount of money the company spends on attracting and retaining those members. He probably has to swallow a lot of hot dog and rotisserie chicken costs to get people back.

7. At one point he sold more clothes than Old Navy or Neiman Marcus

In 2019 the a Washington Post article proclaimed that Costco was selling more than $ 7 billion worth of apparel and apparel each year. It is more than Old Navy or Neiman Marcus. As with many Costco urban myths, it’s unclear if this is still true – a lot has happened since 2019, and clothing may not be as big of an attraction as it once was.

8. You can also book a Costco vacation

Costco Travel offers discounted prices on holidays around the world. With upfront pricing, Costco’s reputation for customer service, and executive member rewards, it might be worth a look next time you plan a trip. Other unexpected Costco items include barns, saunas, musical instruments, and vending machines.

Bottom line

Its first warehouse opened in 1983, but the original Costco opened in a converted airplane hangar in San Diego in 1976. In fact, California is still home to more Costco’s than any other state. And today it is one of the largest retailers in the world.

A word of warning to business-hungry Costco fans: the chain often beats the competition, but doesn’t always come out on top of the price. There are other grocery stores out there that could save you more. Although, of course, other stores don’t offer you the full Costco experience.

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