COSTCO INTRODUCED Kirkland Signature™ products nearly 20 years ago. The idea
was to create a line of “signature” products, and
Kirkland, Washington, was where the company had its home base at that time.
Why invest in our own line of private-label products? There are several reasons,
explains Craig Jelinek, Costco president and
chief executive officer. With Kirkland Signature, Costco can:
• Develop popular items with wide appeal
to expand sales volume
• Control the quality of the product
• Drive down prices on national brands
• Control the packaging
Kirkland Signature is a sign
of quality and value
BABY WIPES have been part of Costco’s
inventory since the company began, but many
brands weren’t up to snuff: The wipes would
rip, or they were too small or members had to
use a lot of them to tackle the tough jobs.
Costco buyers saw an opportunity to offer
parents something better. So in 1995, Kirkland
Signature Baby Wipes were created, providing
a larger, softer, thicker wipe that was superior
to everything else on the market.
Costco partnered with Nice-Pak (which
launched wipes in the 1950s) to develop
Kirkland Signature baby wipes. In the years
since then, Nice-Pak and Costco have brought
market-leading upgrades to the wipes, their
formulation and packaging.
Today, the wipes are made of Tencel, a
plant-based fiber made from the pulp of sus-tainably-managed eucalyptus trees. This
makes them softer, stronger and more absorbent. The hypoallergenic wipes, made with
aloe and vitamin E, now have a new, extra-gentle formula.
Member requests have also brought
product upgrades. “Whisper soft” packaging
reduced the loud crinkling noise that had the
potential to disturb calm babies.
Coming soon are hinged flip-top lids
that allow the wipes to stay open, making
the multitasking diaper-changing event easier. “These changes might seem small, but
we’re constantly striving for
to make our members’
lives easier,” says Costco
Buyer Cheryl Smeby.
Don’t have a baby? Use the wipes for
quick cleanups at picnics, messy barbecues or
even wiping down Fido after a romp in the
dog park. So whatever may need wiping,
members can rest assured that Kirkland
Signature is up for the task at hand.
• Achieve pallet efficiencies. For example,
when the jars containing Kirkland Signature cashews were changed from
round to square, the number of jars that
could fit on a pallet increased from 288
to 432, saving 600 truckloads per year.
That’s what Kirkland Signature products
at Costco are all about. In cases where the right
product isn’t available—either because it hasn’t
been created yet or because it doesn’t represent
a value to members—Costco creates its own.
It’s happened with everything from men’s
dress shirts and pet food to facial tissue and
health-care items. Just about every product
category and department has some Kirkland
“We will always be known for name
brands such as Michelin, Nikon and Crest,”
Craig says, “but we will continue to augment
our product offerings with our own Kirkland
“The working rule followed by Costco
buyers is that all Kirkland Signature products
must be equal to or better than the national
brands, and must offer a savings to our mem-
bers,” adds Doug Schutt, executive vice presi-
dent of Costco. “We know we have met this
goal when consumer groups consistently rate
us highly compared to national brands.”
Another rule is continuous improvement.
“We’re constantly looking at Kirkland Signature
items, revisiting them with an eye to making
them better,” says Jeff Lyons, Costco’s senior
vice president of fresh foods.
In the traditional marketplace, brands are
built over the years with expensive advertising
campaigns built around cornerstone products.
In contrast, the Kirkland Signature brand has
grown by this formula: Offer high-quality
products at great prices, and let the members
decide. “With Kirkland Signature, the focus is
always on quality,” says Jeff. In other words, the
perfect product, from scratch.
The items profiled on pages 39, 41 and 43
are just a sample of the Kirkland Signature
products you’ll find at Costco.—T. Foster Jones