be metric. Consequently, every product we bring in
from outside Canada, including the Kirkland
Signature brand, has to be developed separately.”
Signs inside and outside Costco locations in
Quebec are in French, and many departments in
Quebec have different names entirely, such as Opti-Club (optical) and Resto-Club (Food Court).
Perhaps the biggest difference was encountered
in the early days. “The shopping habits reflected
more planned, long-term purchases,” says Lorelle
Gilpin, Costco Canada assistant vice president of
marketing. “There was less impulse shopping.
“But Costco has always strived to present a trea-sure-hunt atmosphere, and often only has items for
a short period of time,” she continues. “So we had
to teach shoppers in Canada to ‘buy it now.’”
—T. Foster Jones
Warehouse business heats up
With 29 warehouses and another due to open
next month, Costco Mexico originally opened
under the Price Club banner in 1992. It is a 50/50
joint venture between Costco and the country’s sec-ond-largest retailer, Comercial Mexicana.
Demand for American goods is very high in
Mexico, where they are valued for their high quality,
but Mexican consumers are looking for a global mix
of products, and that’s what Costco provides.
Among the many popular brands at Costco’s Mexican
warehouses are Sony, LG, Hewlett-Packard, Levi’s
and Noritake. About 44 percent of Costco Mexico’s
products are imported.
“Mexico is a large country, with extremes in
weather as well as wealth. There are many differences in product mix based on the geography and
economies of our locations,” says Jaime Gonzalez,
senior vice president country manager for Mexico.
That said, Costco members in Mexico tend to have
a profile very similar to U.S. members. In most
cases, they are educated homeowners who have a
higher-than-average amount of disposable income.
Costco Mexico has more of a retail base than
Costco does in other countries, and Mexican wholesale members are different, too. Business members
are more often small businesses that buy to resell,
such as the thousands who regularly buy truckloads
of food and sundry items.
A stroll through a Mexican warehouse feels
very familiar to American members, including the
many who shop at Costco’s Cancún and Acapulco
locations while on vacation, but there are differences. In addition to all those Spanish product labels,
Costco Mexico carries several exciting fresh food
items that aren’t available here: chocoflan, for example, which is similar to the typical Spanish custard
dessert but with a bottom layer of chocolate, and a
white chocolate pie topped with fresh raspberries.
Their top-selling meat product is seasoned skirt
steak that is sliced thin for grilling, and each warehouse bakes fresh bolillos, the hard white rolls that
are staples in the Mexican diet. On weekends, some
of the warehouses make fresh paella. The Interlomas
location, in bustling Mexico City, regularly sells
nearly 2 tons a month of this delicious Spanish rice
dish. Their Food Courts carry the same foods U.S.
members love, with Chicken Bakes being their top-selling item. However, lending a decidedly tropical
flair is the Piña Colada smoothie.—Donna Patané
Jolly good show
When Costco first announced its intention to
enter the UK, the warehouse club caused quite a stir.
The announcement had journalists writing about “a
discount threat” and “secret plots” to “storm the
UK.” All of the media attention and resistance from
competitors gave Costco more free publicity than
anyone could have hoped for. Even the BBC broadcasted from the Thurrock warehouse’s parking lot
on opening day, November 30, 1993.
Despite Costco’s continued success and growth in
the UK, the uproar resulted in legislation requiring the
majority of the warehouse’s business to come from
trade (business) members. Trade members must meet
strict membership criteria. (The list of qualifications,
along with additional information about Costco UK,
can be found at www.costco.co.uk.)
“With so many similarities between the U.S. and
UK warehouses, the focus on trade membership is
the biggest difference between the countries,” says
Steve Pappas, vice president UK country manager.
More than 70 percent of Costco’s business
comes from trade members, and the bulk of that
business is from CTNs (confectionary, tobacconists
and newsagents). To reflect those purchasing needs,
UK warehouses offer many items—from candy
and wine to cooking oil and washing detergent—in
multi-packs designed for reselling.
Additionally, each warehouse has a trade coordinator who works with local businesses to explore
how to best serve local businesses by offering ser-
A jacket potato, the UK’s bestselling
Food Court item, is a baked potato
covered with any combination of the
following toppings: chili, coleslaw,
tuna, cheese and beans.