June 29, 2010
Every trip through a cavernous Costco Wholesale warehouse feels like a treasure hunt.
The company brings Dom Pérignon and Bud Light, platinum-set diamonds and scoopable cat litter, Prada handbags and Michelin tires together under the same flat roof.
The quest has been carefully designed for shoppers — 57.4 million Costco members worldwide. Shoppers must traverse vast retail plains and scan the jungle of exposed metal shelves for bargains in order to find loot — discounted Ugg boots, say, or smoked salmon.
Inside the Issaquah warehouse, customers hunt for deals in a retail ecosystem spread across 155,000 square feet. Costco cachet knows no class, no income. Part of the appeal, executives and industry watchers said, stems from the treasure hunt concept. Shoppers return to Costco for basics, yes, but also for the thrill of a surprise bargain.
“No matter what level of economic strata you are, you like good stuff,” company Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said. “Now, sometimes you have to choose to buy the chicken versus the steak, but the fact is, we’ve got some great stuff.”
The philosophy has made the Issaquah-based company the third largest retailer in the United States, the eighth largest on the planet and No. 25 on the Fortune 500.