Kirkland Signature cookware has
maintained its high specifications,
despite a large spike in the price of
raw materials in the last few years.
focus is always
In creating a perfect product, sometimes it’s not what you put in, but what you don’t. Case in point: Kirkland Signature grilled chicken strips, with no preservatives.
Enter a clever bottle known as the Kirkland
Signature bottle. As Costco developed the latest generation of liquid detergents, the manufacturer
designed a bottle that fit better on shipping pallets.
With the new design, 120 bottles can fit on a pallet,
compared to 90 bottles of a leading national brand.
More bottles per pallet means fewer truckloads
during transportation—which helps to reduce costs
and is better for the environment. (Incidentally, the
bottle also fits better in cupboards).
“We designed the best bottle in the industry
today,” says Deb Belcourt, the Costco buyer who
oversees the program. “It’s one part of the formula to
offer this product at a savings well over 20 percent
versus the leading national brand.”
But most important is what’s inside the bottle,
says Deb. “It’s all about quality,” she says. “With
Kirkland Signature, it’s always been all about the
Counting on quality
There’s a great story that exemplifies the “
hidden quality” of many of the products in the Kirkland
Costco CEO Jim Sinegal had seen sheets
advertised—which at first blush were of the same
quality as Kirkland Signature—that were selling for
less than the Kirkland Signature brand. Concerned,
he asked the Costco buyer how this could be. The
buyer simply took the competitor’s sheets and the
Kirkland Signature sheets, washed them both and
left the sheets on Jim’s desk the next day. When he
saw the difference, the matter was closed.
“A lot of people see the thread count [TC] and
don’t look any further,” says Carolle Speer, the rep
for Divatex, Costco’s sheet manufacturer. “They
don’t notice that the manufacturer used an inferior
type of cotton or dye, or that it’s not a ‘true’ 600
thread count, or that the sheets are actually smaller.
There are so many factors that, when combined
correctly, make an exceptional sheet.”
Costco has continuously upgraded the Kirkland
Signature sheets since they were introduced in 2004.
“We switched to Supima cotton because this
guarantees our Costco sheets are made with 100
percent, extra-long-staple, U.S.-only Pima cotton.
The result is a softer, more refined yarn and fabric,”
says Costco buyer Michelle Husby.
Sheets are sewn with 11 to 12 stitches per inch;
the industry standard is six to eight. Hems are dou-ble-folded, then stitched, leaving no raw edges. And
high-quality elastic is sewn all the way around the
fitted sheet rather than just in corners. The sheets
are Sanforized (preshrunk), mercerized for added
strength and color evenness, finished with a wrin-kle-reducing agent and singed to eliminate pilling.
Many companies allow a 2 to 5 percent tolerance on the finished thread count. This means a 600
TC sheet can finish at 570 to 588 TC. “It’s accepted
in the industry for a lot of retailers to test lower than
600, yet still claim that thread count,” says Kathy
Thull, assistant general merchandise manager for
Costco. “They allow this. We don’t.”
Quality assurance is implemented at every stage,
from cotton certification to weaving, finishing and
shipping. Additional analysis is performed by Bureau
Veritas, a third-party independent testing lab. “The
production time to move Kirkland Signature through
the factory is much different, because the quality
control is so much stricter,” says Carolle. “In terms of
how strict Costco is, it’s unusual. But we’ve gotten
used to the Costco way.”
And Costco’s price for 600 TC sheets has come
down $5 on its queen, king and California king
sheets since they were introduced last year.—TFJ
Now you’re cooking
“Cookware technology is always changing,”
observes Sam Haugen, Costco’s assistant cookware
buyer. Erin Medved, Costco’s housewares buyer,
adds, “Especially with regard to the evolution of
Kirkland Signature cookware first came to
Costco in 1994. At the time, the buyer, Kathy Thull,
saw it as a natural development for Costco’s
Kirkland Signature brand.