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I'm a Costco Convert!

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Costco in the UK

So the wife and I got a trade membership the other day at Costco (UK). Costco is a USA chain of member wholesale cash and carry stores that now span the globe. Their main principle is to have a limited range of goods but to sell in bulk at seriously low prices. Most items sold are well known or the best known brand of that particular type of product eg. Heinz Tomato Ketchup. There are also high end brands in the mix eg. Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Diesel, Tag Heuer, Analon, Global knives, the list goes on. There is definitely an American influence in the place with plenty of relatively unknown to the UK brands being sold at Costco eg. Hersheys, Skippy, Oreo. Costco buildings are big with long and wide parking spaces, massive heavy duty trolleys with a large 2 baby seat drawer for young kids, shelves are stacked by pallets high inside with only the ground level pallet taken out of shrinkwrap for customers. Although Costco has a warehouse feel it is very clean and well maintained. The staff are friendly and seem happy to help. There’s a tyre shop, an opticians, a 1 hour photo shop, a jewellery counter, tobacco shop (restricted) and a cheap canteen style restaurant.
Costco aftercare is pretty generous with a free phone technical support line for electronic items(0800 066 5091 open 12 noon to 12 midnight 7 days a week excluding bank holidays). As long as you stay a Costco member you are automatically given a free extension on your warranty on Televisions to 5 years and Computers to 2 years. Costco offer a 90 day no quibble return policy on Televisions, Projectors, Computers, Cameras, Camcorders, mp3 players and mobile phones.
There is a catch to shopping at Costco though, Costco is not open to the public in general – only to people who own businesses and Individuals who fit into the following categories:
Current or Retired employee of:
Civil Servant
Local Government
Medical/Health Service
Police Force
Post Office
Or Qualified as:
Chartered Architect
Chartered Civil Engineer
Chartered Surveyor
Qualified Accountant
Membership also requires a fee of £20+VAT for a trade membership or £25+VAT for the individual one. There is an executive scheme if you plan on spending more than £150 per month which costs £30+VAT more but offers 2% cashback at the end of the year (on items under £300). The spouse or partner living at the same address gets a card too and each additional card costs another £12+VAT (trade members only). Cards can be used at any Costco in the world (handy for cheap fuel in USA). Each card holder can bring 2 guests ie. friends and family. Don’t try to bypass the system or think you can take a look around by sneaking in because security is seriously tight! Costco can search you on your way in, they search every trolley that leaves against your receipt and they hound you down if you wander in without showing your member card! If you do want to have a look around then go to the member desk to pick up a visitor pass. You still need to pass the eligibility criteria before they give you one though.
It’s odd that the UK stores seem so secretive about who Costco are and what they sell compared to the USA where they are the 3rd biggest retailer. Even the UK website hardly has anything on it, only offers for The USA site allows so many more discounts from other firms and also offers some online shopping. I’m not complaining though – at least we have the chain over here in the UK! Having visited them 3 times over 4 days I don’t know how I managed to do any shopping without Costco! I only wish that we had joined sooner so that we could have enjoyed the USA Costco in Kona, Hawaii, USA. The petrol is cheaper at Costco’s own gas station than anywhere on Hawaii Island which which have saved a few dollars on our honeymoon out there not to mention the immense amount of shopping that we would have stocked up on!
To have a glimpse of what’s on offer, here is a list of prices inc VAT (by unit where appropriate as much of the goods are sold in bulk) and a comparison lowest price elsewhere (All prices accurate as of 9th November 2009):
Store Cupboard
Lucozade Sport Still 12x 750ml (9 litres) £8.61 Asda (made up of special offer price per 100ml on 4x packs) £11.25
Napolina Tomatoes 400g 12x £5.49 Tesco (Made up of special offer 4x packs) £5.70
Skippy Peanut Butter 1.13kg £3.79 Ocado (made up of 340g jars) £5.65
Nutella 750g £2.49 Sainsubry’s £2.74
Mission Wraps 8 pack 2x £1.49 Tesco £3.50
Part baked Petit Pain 4 pack 4x £1.95 Sainsbury’s (made up of 6x packs) £2.11
Vittel 1.5l 12x £5.39 Tesco (Vittel not commonly sold so Evian brand 2x 6 pack used) £7.16
Vittel 500ml 24x £5.73 Asda (Vittel not commonly sold so Evian brand 4x 6 pack used) £7.96
Fresh Leeks per kg £1.79 Sainsbury’s £1.98
Fresh Rocket Salad per kg £5.53 Asda £11.10
Fresh Baby Plum Tomatoes per kg £3.87 Tesco £4.00
Fresh Vine Tomatoes per kg £3.32 Asda £4.00
Fresh Medjool Dates per kg £6.05 Sainsbury’s £9.04
Fresh Potato Gnocchi 500g 2x £1.99 Waitrose (Equivalent quality) £1.49
Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella per kg £9.58 Ocado £17.96
Fridge Meat & Fish
Fresh Whole Chicken min weight 3.4kg 2x £6.69 Tesco (min weight 3kg x2) £16.74
Fresh Chicken breast Fillet per kg £6.49 Tesco Value £6.56
Fresh mini Chicken breast fillet per kg £5.49 Sainsbury’s £9.08
Fresh Chicken thigh fillet per kg £4.89 Sainsubury’s £5.82
Fresh Chicken thigh per kg £2.39 Asda £2.88
Fresh Sea Bass fillet per kg £8.69 Asda £17.28
Frozen Chicken breast fillet (no added anything! Air frozen) per kg £4.77 Tesco £6.66
Frozen Whole Aromatic Duck kit (with 24 skins & hoi sin sauce) £6.59 Sainsbury’s (similar kit but 16 skins) £7.32
Various Other Products
Photo prints 6 by 4 inch £0.04-£0.07 per print (dependant on amount purchased, upload online pick up in store) costs £0.09 per print
Photo prints 7 by 5 inch £0.09-£0.12 per print (dependant on amount purchased, upload online pick up in store) costs £0.19 per print
Eye test £9.99 High Street Optician £15-30
Lacoste Frames £29.99 Lacoste Store £150
Essilor 1.67 ultra thin lenses £49.99 Standard optician price £125
DKNY ladies watch £58.90 Goldsmiths £89
Tag Heuer Link Ladies watch £865 Goldsmiths £995
Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade £58.96 Amazon £64.38
Braun Oral B Professional Care 1000 £22.98 Boots £29.99
Wii Console with Wii sports resort £158.88 Game £164.99
Kirkland Alkaline AA batteries 48x pack £8.04 Tesco Value Batteries 48x (made up of 4x packs @ 99p each) £11.88
First Class Stamp £0.37 Royal Mail £0.39
Current Magazines 20% discount on all printed prices
Finish Quantum Tablets 60x £9.76 Asda (made up of cost per tablet on 40x pack on special offer) £12
Adidas Clima 365 tracksuit trousers £19.54 £26.99
Honda Cars 10% off price
The Restaurant after checkout
Luxury Cottage Pie £2.45 Square Pie £4.50
Hot dog and soda (free refill soft drinks) £1.47 Ikea £1.80
Danish Pastry £0.59 Waitrose £1.09
Pepperoni Pizza slice £1.47 Mulberry Street £3.50
18″ BBQ Chicken Pizza £7.33 Papa Johns (15.5″) £18.99
As you can see from the above list, it is clear to see that if you buy a small combination of the above products then you will easily make back the membership fee over a year. Don’t forget that you will have to visit fewer supermarkets to grab a good deal saving time as well as money. Also keep some bags and boxes in the car as no bags are provided and the vendor boxes that are available after checkout often run out. Maybe I’ll see you in Costco sometime soon 🙂

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