Business News

What's all the fuss about Costco?

by Kari Walker

A Costco lover breaks down the pluses of the warehouse club and explains why you'll want to check it out.

Prada and Fendi handbags. I'm not kidding you.

Prada handbags at a wholesale club? You betcha!

As Lafayette gears up for a planned Costco Wholesale to make its way to the new Ambassador Town Center development at Ambassador Caffery Parkway and Kaliste Saloom Road, let me explain what the fuss is all about. I first experienced Costco Wholesale while vacationing in California last summer - it only took one trip for me to get hooked and yearn for Costco stores in the South.

After my vacation I discovered Costco locations in Texas and put my husband's work travels to good use: We invested in a Costco "Executive" membership. Now that the brand has added a location in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, he makes less Texas Costco grocery hauls for me as my I-10 adventures now include frequent stops to the wholesale clubs.

In fact, we loved the store so much we gifted a membership to my Mom for Christmas - she was last seen carting away almost $500 worth of goods at the Baton Rouge location.

We like it. We really like it. And here's why:

If Target had a warehouse concept like Walmart does with its Sam's Club, it would be much like a Costco. So there you have it. In my mind, Costco is to Target what Sam's is to Walmart.

It's a slightly upscale experience for wholesale shoppers. Here are five things to love about Costco and why you'll be in line to get a shiny, new membership card:

1. Cost. While Sam's Club memberships start at $45 annually and Costco Warehouse is $55, it's the rewards that make spending an extra $10 worth it because Costco offers zany perks like discounts on car purchases from select auto dealers, auto and home insurance, travel insurance, travel destinations, car rental, check printing, online investing, Medicare Part D pharmacy costs, phone services, small business 401(k) plans, identity protection, merchant credit card processing, payroll services, and health insurance in select states. If that wasn't enough, the Executive level memberships earn 2 percent cash back in purchases annually - up to $500 back. We received our first reward last week.

2. Couponers favor Costco's larger variety of sale items over Sam's Club, and all Costco membership levels have access to savings. Monthly mailers are sent to members to let them know about in-store and online deals. At Sam's Club only Advantage Plus and Business Plus members get sale deals.

3. At a glance, Costco stocks more health-conscious grocery products like organic meats, produce and gluten-free snack varieties. Critics say Costco does not offer as large a variety of generic brand options like Sam's Club, but I'm forgiving on that because I've found more quality name-brand products cheaper than a traditional grocery store at Costco. And I'll take quality over quantity any day.

4. You can buy a Prada purse and a Chanel watch in the same place you buy 60 rolls of toilet paper - they really do have it all at Costco.

5. There are blogs after blogs written by people sharing how to get the best deal at Costco. After all, it's the frugally-minded who make wholesale club shopping experiences feel like Christmas morning.

What's more, Costco treats its employees well, offering full insurance benefits to part-time hourly workers. Check out this Forbes story, "Walmart Pays Workers Poorly And Sinks While Costco Pays Workers Well And Sails - Proof That You Get What You Pay For."

Of course, this isn't a done deal yet. But if it happens, Costco will be a destination drawing tens of thousands of new shoppers to Lafayette each year and greatly expanding our sales tax base. And it will attract many more cool retailers to our city as well.

I'll see you there.

Watch this video for a breakdown of the battle of the warehouse clubs: