There’s no denying that Costco is many Southerners’ favorite store for picking up flat-screen TVs, tires, bulk toilet paper, months-worth of pasta, and a “6 pack of John Grisham books, just because.” But between the cement floors, florescent lighting, and chorizo samples, most people don’t think of Costco as a place to buy clothing.
Despite that, Costco has slowly become one of the biggest clothing and footwear retailers in the country. As The Washington Post reported recently, everyone’s favorite rotisserie chicken and signature olive oil purveyor has suddenly become a giant in clothing sales. Clothes and footwear now generate more than $7 billion a year in sales for Costco. While $7 billion is a stunning number for any retailer, it's particularly impressive for the no-frills store that doesn’t have dressing rooms and rarely stocks the same item twice. Even with those clothing shopping flaws, Costco is now the No. 8 clothing retailer in the United States, behind Walmart, Amazon, Target, Kohl's, TJ Maxx, Macy's, and The Gap thanks to its 85 million members, who pay an annual membership fee starting at $60 to fill their baskets with Lucky Brand jeans, Calvin Klein shirts, $70 North Face jackets, and bargain-priced Birkenstocks, along with bulk burger meat and three-packs of toothpaste.
According to the Washington Post, the company now sells more clothing than Old Navy, Neiman Marcus, or Ralph Lauren and it shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, its fashion revenue is growing faster than its food or electronics business at about 9% a year.
So what’s the secret? Costco has a few things helping spur a clothing shopping spree.
First of all, while Costco has its own in-house clothing which it sells under the Kirkland label. But that’s not the main draw. Costco receives boxes of unsold inventory from other big brands–from Eddie Bauer to Tommy Hilfiger to Tory Burch to Adidas—and sells them at low prices, which appeals to fashionistas of all ages and budgets.
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While it’s a win for consumers, it’s also a good deal for brands, according to analysts who told the Washington Post that some fashion labels appreciated the fact that they could offload excess goods without “tarnishing their reputations.”
The other reason that shoppers are turning to Costco for clothing is that it’s cheap. Like, $13 Jessica Simpson jeans cheap. If you’re trying to look stylish while sticking to a budget, it’s hard to deny the appeal to even those of us most resistant to the idea of shopping for clothes at Costco.
One thing to keep in mind if you’re planning on sprucing up your work wardrobe or doing some back-to-school shopping at the retailer: If you see something you like, buy it. Because Costco has a limited number of items in stock, this is not the time for careful shopping. If you wait too long to buy, the item may be gone. One shopper interviewed by The Post shopped at Costco twice a week to find the good clothing, so keep that in mind when you’re browsing the stacks of goods.
Don’t believe us? Browse the stacks of clothes next time you’re picking up bulk Red Vines and fishing rods at Costco. You might end up a believer and soon enough the next time you’re looking for something new to wear, you may find yourself skipping the mall and heading straight to Costco.