10 Things You Should Buy at Costco
Costco’s success formula is no secret. As the second-largest retailer in the U.S., sales have grown 54 percent in the last five years despite a lackluster economy. Consumers give Costco's reputation high marks. According to The Harris Poll's 2016 Reputation Quotient Ratings, Costco's ranks up there with the likes of The Walt Disney Company, Apple and Amazon. Members are loyal with more than 90 percent of U.S. customers renewing their memberships.
Costco runs a “no frills”, member-based operation purchasing large quantities, keeping product markups at 15 percent or less, and providing additional value with its in-house Kirkland brand. While product assortment is selective and often fleeting, there are some regularly stocked items that are a must buy. The list below highlights ten of the many great values available at Costco, including Kirkland and Kirkland Signature branded products.
1. Kirkland Signature Moisture Shampoo and Moisture Conditioner
The quality of this Kirkland Signature hair care duo is reminiscent of high-end salon brands. It is sulfate-free, paraben-free, vegan, gluten-free, no animal testing, and is safe for color treated hair. Its quality and performance have been compared to Pureology’s Hydrate shampoo and conditioner, a pricey salon brand. It's also a superb value. The chart below compares prices on moisturizing shampoos and conditioners for salon brands, drugstore brands and Costco's product. (Note: Brand prices listed are from retailer Ulta.)
Shampoo & Conditioner Price Comparison
Pureology Hydrate Shampoo
Pureology Hydrate Conditioner
EverCrème Sulfate-Free Moisture System Intense Nourishing Shampoo
EverCrème Sulfate-Free Moisture System Intense Nourishing Conditioner
Healthy Sexy Hair Color Safe Soy Moisturizing Shampoo
Healthy Sexy Hair Color Safe Soy Moisturizing Conditioner
Kirkland Signature Moisture Shampoo
Kirkland Signature Moisture Conditioner
2. Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The quality and value of this product is exceptional. A study by The Olive Center at the University of California-Davis found that the Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil was one of just five in the study that had not been combined with cheaper, refined olive oil. At about $10 per liter, this Kirkland product is a bargain. Other well-known brands, some of which failed in the study, cost double or even much more.
Note: Costco's Signature Balsamic Vinegar is a quality product and great value too.
Two things set Costco’s wine assortment apart – selection and price. Costco is the largest retailer of fine wine in the U.S. According to Consumer Reports, Costco wine is an exceptional value, ranking its 2011 Kirkland Sonoma Chardonnay ($7) as a Consumer Reports Best Buy.
Costco collaborates with specific winemakers and wineries around the world to create custom blends for its Kirkland Signature wines. The wines are offered in tiered categories that denote quality and value: Premium, Super Premium, and Signature Series.
Here’s the best news! You don’t need to be a Costco member to purchase wine or liquor from its warehouses due to a law that prohibits selling alcohol through members-only agreements. Simply tell the warehouse greeter that you are there to purchase alcohol.
4. Pet Products
According to a Consumer Reports analysis, Costco’s Kirkland Signature pet food is among the least expensive in this product category. Savings on national branded pet food, such as Iams, can be found as well. Costco carries a broad assortment of pet products at savings over pet retailers and even online retailers. Other pet products found at warehouses include treats, toys, bedding, and pet health products.
Don’t forget the Costco Pharmacy, which carries a full-line of pet medications offered at considerable savings over drug stores and veterinarian offices.
5. Kirkland Bath Tissue
Bath tissue is a top selling product at Costco warehouses. The company recently improved their Kirkland Signature bath tissue product by upgrading its softness, absorbency and durability. At less than half the cost per square foot of leading national brands, in a price survey by the warehouse, it is undeniably a great value. The savings from purchasing this product alone throughout the year for your family could likely pay for your Costco membership fee.
Can't part with your name brand toilet tissue? Costco carries brand names across many product lines, including toilet paper giant, Charmin. Watch for frequent sales on Charmin or Kirkland Signature toilet paper.
Purchasing new tires at a warehouse club will save you up to 20 percent off automotive store prices. Included with a Costco tire installation is free pressure checks, tire balancing, tire rotations, and flat tire repairs. The best perk . . you can shop at the warehouse while Costco installs your tires.
Take caution before purchasing bulk quantities of produce so that half or more won't end up in the garbage. You might not need a dozen oranges but a bulk size of organic strawberries might be in order if you are making a strawberry pie. If you have a large family and enjoy many servings of fruits and vegetables, there are great values in this product category. Look for organic offerings too as the savings for this category of produce are even greater compared to organic prices in grocery stores.
8. Fitness Clothing
The global sports apparel market is expected to grow to $178 billion by 2019, according to research firm Trefis.1 Fitness apparel specialty stores have popped up over the last several years to meet this growing demand, including Lululemon and Athleta. Much of the growth in this clothing line is due in part to the desire to wear fitness apparel outside the gym and to the boom of yoga and specialty exercise classes such as CrossFit.
Many fashion retailers, such as Forever 21 and The Gap, have stepped into the fitness apparel market with their own clothing lines in stores and online. Warehouse clubs like Costco are seizing this market as well. Prices for fitness clothing vary significantly from store to store but at Costco, members can purchase this apparel at a fraction of the prices at many retail stores. While the selection is not extensive, the assortment is broad. Some of the fitness apparel items members can purchase at Costco include running shorts, tennis skirts, fitness tops, jackets, and yoga pants. Costco also carries a limited selection of athletic shoes.
9. Kirkland Signature Coffee Pods
In the world of coffee sales, the single-cup coffee market is growing leaps and bounds. Sales of single-cup coffee have tripled in recent years and continue to grow. Single-cup coffee pods offer convenience but are not cheap. One coffee pod can cost up to a dollar, with most pods cashing in at about 60 to 70 cents per pod. At Costco, you can purchase several brands of coffee pods at a savings but the Kirkland Signature coffee pods are the best value at about 33 cents per pod online and slightly less at warehouses. The Kirkland Signature coffee pods (along with other brand name pods) are on sale frequently for even less. Costco offers two coffee pod flavors: Pacific Bold and Breakfast Blend.
10. Costco Executive Membership
Costco Executive members pay $120 for a yearly membership (compared to $60 for a standard membership) and account for about two-thirds of the company’s sales. If you are a frequent Costco shopper, you could easily makeup the additional $60 in membership fees.
Benefits include 2 percent cash back on most Costco purchases in the form of a merchandise certificate (see hint below) along with additional perks and savings on other products and services, such as travel. If you are a frequent Costco shopper and loyal to the Kirkland brand, an executive membership might be worth it.
Think back to your last Costco shopping trip and ask yourself, how often do you shop at Costco? If you shop weekly, you would need to spend about $53 per week at each shopping trip to recover the additional membership amount, or about $229 per month. This does not include bigger ticket purchases you might make from Costco, such as a family vacation, new tires, a flat-screen television, or perhaps a Kirkland Signature patio furniture set. In these scenarios, that 2 percent back could easily pay for your entire membership with a surplus merchandise credit to spend. Hint: If you earn a Costco merchandise certificate, you don't need to spend the full amount at Costco. They will give you change back in cash no matter the amount.
What's Your Most Frequent Costco Purchase?
1Sherman, Lauren. "For the Activewear Market, There's No Way But Up - BoF - The Business of Fashion." The Business of Fashion, 15 Jan. 2014. Web. <http://www.businessoffashion.com/2014/01/activewear-lululemon-nike-hm-sweaty-betty.html>.
Jakab, Spencer. "Growth Is Helping Costco at the Margins." The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 11 Mar. 2013. Web. <http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324096404578354581556318960>.
Logan, Lori Gordan. "Costco: Breaking All the Retail Rules." CNBC.com, 25 Apr. 2012. Web. <http://www.cnbc.com/id/47175492>.
"Wine Bargains | Wine Shopping - Consumer Reports." Consumer Reports Money Advisor (October 2013), Sept. 2013. Web. <http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2013/09/red-wine-white-wine-cheap-wine-bargain/index.htm>.
Fottrell, Quentin. "Sales of Single-serve Coffee Have Tripled since 2011." MarketWatch The Wall Street Journal, 21 Nov. 2013. Web. 16 July 2014. <http://www.marketwatch.com/story/sales-of-single-serve-coffee-have-tripled-since-2011-2013-11-20>.
Vasel, Kathryn. "Costco Could Hike Its Membership Fee." CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 22 Apr. 2016. Web. 23 Apr. 2016. <http://money.cnn.com/2016/04/22/pf/costco-membership-fee/index.html>.
Denman, Tim. "The 10 Retailers with the Best Reputation." The 10 Retailers with the Best Reputation. Retail Info Systems News, 29 Mar. 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
Questions & Answers
I am a widow, is it worth the extra money to join Costco?
The good news is that if you don't find your membership useful or worth the cost, Costco will refund you your membership fee. That said, it depends on your purchases as to whether or not it is worth joining. If for instance, you are purchasing a set of tires that year or a vacation through Costco, it is certainly worth it as the savings you will have outweigh the cost of your membership for sure.Helpful 11
Should I buy Costco running shoes?
Yes and other shoes there are great too. They do have some extended sizes and styles available online.Helpful 10
Has Costco discontinued the white Kirkland tennis shoes?
It might depend on your local warehouse as they do carry slightly different inventories. They do carry a small variety of "tennis shoes" so there could be a white pair at your local warehouse and likely online.
© 2014 Marcelle Bell