Decorating is serious business
for Costco’s buying team
96 ;e Costco Connection OCTOBER 2015
show and asked suppliers to come
up with a Costco version, raising
the bar on every aspect of the specs:
thicker branches, more lights, more
height, a twinkle function and multicolor options. The end result is this
year’s 7½-foot artificial pre-lit tree.
Costco demands 700 LED lights on
each tree spaced evenly among the
1,986 branch tips. “Our Christmas
All that glitters …
trees are so full and bushy,” says
Helen. “If you threw a tennis ball in,
you’d probably never see it again.”
The luxurious feel also comes
from a thicker, more expensive plastic
that maintains the tree’s shape and a
fluffier, more tinselly material to create
density in the middle—all specified by
Costco’s buying team.
If you thought glitter was just glitter,
think again. It turns out there’s hex glitter,
laser glitter, chunky glitter and tinsel glitter.
Nothing escapes the scrutiny of Costco’s seasonal buyers. They have driven suppliers to
levels of obsession to get the best light-reflec-tive finish on their glitter ornament set. One
of the suppliers even installed a new machine
(they call it “the glitter machine”) to ensure
that these shatter-resistant ornaments get a
brighter, more even application of sparkle.
Another good example is Costco’s amazing glass ornament set. Only high-end stores
offer hand-decorated glass tree ornaments
that come anywhere close to Costco’s: 90 mm
(3;/;-inch) diameter, delicate glass, intricate
multi-set finishes. Those stores sell comparable beauties for $6 to $20 each. Costco
offers an exclusive Kirkland Signature™
14-piece hand-decorated glass ornament collection for $19.99. And because they’ll be
selling hundreds of thousands of these sets
globally this year, prices stay down. Check
out the ornaments and you’ll see what brilliance means to Costco.
By Rosalind Gray
JUST WHEN MOST of us are taking down
the tree and boxing up the ornaments, Kris
Cramer, Costco’s seasonal buyer, will still be
Christmas shopping with a spring in her step.
Kris is part of a nine-person global buying team that dreams up, selects, specifies and
approves every single item in Costco’s
Christmas range. Every holiday-season item
that lands in Costco warehouses from
October to December has the team’s seal of
approval on it. Not only that, the team probably had a hand in shaping the final look and
feel of each item.
Beyond the 12 days of Christmas
In January the buying team is hard at work
sifting through thousands of proposals, photos
and ideas for everything from gift-wrap and
trees to ornaments and sculptures that members might find on Costco shelves the following year. That’s not the next Christmas, but the
Christmas after that— 22 months away.
Costco buyers don’t just develop a product spec; they upscale it, upgrade it, re-engi-neer it and revisit it until they’ve got something
unique, of impeccable quality, that they offer
at incredible value.
Take the stunning 7-foot-tall outdoor
metal LED blossom tree from two years ago.
Helen Hazell, another of the buyers on the
team, tells me she spotted a similar item at a
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