Three reasons Costco is different to anything else in NZ

2019-06-11 11:49:46

OPINION: I like big box retailing and I cannot lie.

There is nothing I like more – well almost nothing (kids don't count) – than perusing the aisles in a giant store and finding an incredible thing I can pass off as a much more expensive thing. Shout-out to the white lacy top I got from The Warehouse Henderson.

But aren't our big box shopping needs already well catered for?

We have of course, The Warehouse — although the iconic red sheds are going through a time of some upheaval as they deal with the ever-present online threat.

There's Big Save for furniture, and supermarkets like Pak 'n Save for food; so why is Costco's arrival a big deal? Other than the fact it's just a massive retailer finally coming here and where the bloody hell are ya, Ikea? Ikea? Hello?

It's kind of a bunch of big box retailers all rolled into one, with a petroleum cherry on top.


I cannot emphasise this enough. It is planning on opening with a real, big petrol station. Here's the press release: "The Westgate warehouse will offer the global super chain's full format and include a Costco fuel station, tyre centre, food court, optometrist, hearing aid services along with groceries and homewares."

None of this pop-up, boutique, Kiwi beach-head nonsense touted by the Swedish retailer.

Petrol prices in NZ may or may not have suffered from a lack of competition (insert side eye gif here) but we're getting a market review anyway. What we do know is that fuel margins reaped by retailers are way up over the past 10 years. There's a reason people are fighting in the forecourt.

If Costco wants to win our hearts and wallets, it needs to come in hard with a discount petrol offering. With the fatty margins we've been talking about in New Zealand, they can probably afford to take a bit of a hit to buy some loyalty. I bet they've heard how Westies love their cars.


Hearing aids, as Consumer NZ has pointed out, are big business. And depending on who you might get a hearing test from, you may be recommended to get a hearing aid not knowing that the person who did your test has a financial relationship with the company selling the hearing aids.

And then there is just the cost. Pimped out, top-of-the-line hearing aids can cost as much as several thousand dollars. Here are a few I Googled; a "Premium Pro" with intelligent hearing would set you back $8590 from Triton Hearing. Not a typo. But a Premium One is only $4590. The cheapest on the site appears to be $333, but that's actually a monthly rate.

Some of the websites don't even have prices, which makes me think they are really expensive. There is a Government subsidy available, but even so, as the Consumer NZ mystery shoppers found, they were recommended a $3700 Phonak hearing aid, and others ranging from $2100 up to $5011 for a top-of-the-line model.

"A 2008 study commissioned by the Ministry of Health found a lack of safeguards to ensure that hearing aids are recommended on non-commercial grounds and that audiologists are independent from manufacturers," Consumer reported.

Costco pricing across the ditch has hearing aids starting from A$999 (NZ$1052). Now, there are some hearing aids marketed in New Zealand for under $500, but they come with an asterisk: *Price includes Government subsidy of $1022, although I did find a bargain on sale for $399 from $799 which is, it seems, fairly marketed as the best value hearing aid in the country.

One thing we know about prices; the more competition in the market the better, and hearing aids are no different.


It's just damn cheap and has a huge range of all the stuff. It's not called Costco Wholesale for nothing.

A reliable source who used to live in Missouri tells me that New Zealand wine and lamb shanks were cheaper in Costco on the other side of the world than they are here.

You can order kids' birthday cakes, giant platters of salami and meats, and if you're feeling American, in the "global bulk discount retailer" there are Buffalo wings (pro tip, not made from real buffalo).

It will cost you an initial outlay to be a member, but I predict Costco will become a destination for Aucklanders and people further afield too.

It will sell tyres and glasses, and sporting goods and small appliances and hardware, and will have a pharmacy and "domestics" (I think that means homewares), and jewellery and so on, and yes it's all about consumption but hey, if it makes you happy to buy a cheap thing, who am I to judge?

I'm over here, happy, wearing my $5 top from The Warehouse.

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