8 things you didn’t know about Costco

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


Key points

  • Costco is full of surprises – not only are there ways to shop there without being a member, you can even 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.
  • Cumulative discounts are a good way to save more on your daily purchases.

Costco, oh Costco, where would we be without you? People across the country are addicted to its low-cost staples, free samples, Kirkland products, and most importantly, roast chicken and hot dogs.

Maybe you’re a compulsive costco-er who bought a car through Costco, wears eyeglasses from the Costco optician, and insured your home, pet, and life through Costco Insurance Services. Even so, our Costco behind-the-curtain peek might contain a thing or two that will even surprise you.

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

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

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Another is to use a Costco gift card, although you have to ask a member to buy it for you. Costco Shop Cards range from as little as $25 to $1,000. And anyone can use the Costco Pharmacy, regardless of membership status. In some states, this also applies to alcohol purchases. Finally, non-members can pay an additional 5% to experience the joys of Costco shopping online.

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

Costco sold more than 122 million hot dog and soda combinations last year, and retail experts say the $1.50 deal is one of the reasons for the chain’s success . The price hasn’t increased in over 30 years, and founder Jim Sinegal says that’s not something Costco is going to bother with. The same goes for his $4.99 roast chicken, the bird with its own Facebook account. 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 of them.

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

4. You can save more by stacking discounts and rewards

As with most of your grocery shopping, layering rewards and offers can add up to big savings. Costco does not accept manufacturer’s coupons, but offers in-store discounts called “Instant Savings”. You can stack them with cashback apps that reward all of your purchases, even discounted ones. Credit card rewards are slightly more complicated because Costco only accepts certain cards in store. However, these restrictions do not 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 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, membership renewal rates were 91% in the United States and Canada and 89% in the rest of the world. Its dues revenue was $3.9 billion last year. To put that into context, its net sales were $192 billion and its net income for the year was $5 billion. It would be easy to think that membership fees accounted for nearly 80% of its revenue, but that doesn’t take into account the amount of money the company spends to attract and retain those members. He probably has to swallow a lot of hot dog and rotisserie chicken costs to keep people coming back.

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

In 2019, a Washington Post article proclaimed that Costco sells over $7 billion worth of clothing and apparel each year. It’s 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 important as it once was.

8. You can even book a Costco vacation

Costco Travel offers discounted prices on vacations worldwide. With upfront prices, Costco’s reputation for customer service, and rewards for executive members, it might be worth checking out the next time you’re planning a trip. Other unexpected Costco items include barns, saunas, musical instruments and vending machines.

At the end of the line

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

A word of warning for bargain-hungry Costco fans: the chain often beats the competition, but it doesn’t always stand out on price. There are other grocery stores that could save you more. Of course, other stores don’t give you the full Costco experience.

Luz W. German