What Is Costco? (What Are They Known For, How Are They Different, Type Of Store + More)

Costco is one of the largest retailers in the world, with over 800 warehouses currently running. Operating as an exclusive member’s club, Costco offers many of your favorite products and brands in bulk sizes at a discounted price.

However, if you haven’t heard of this retailer, you may be wondering what Costco is, what it’s known for, and how the company is different from other retailers. If you’d like to learn more, keep reading!

What Is Costco?

Costco is a retail chain known for its warehouse stores, selling brand-name products in bulk and charging discounted prices. To gain access to Costco, customers must purchase a yearlong membership which is priced at $60 for the year for a standard membership, although other memberships are also available.

For more information about Costco, including how you can join and visit Costco, how much the Costco membership is, and why Costco is so popular with shoppers, then just keep reading!

What is Costco Known For?

Costco is known for being a membership retailer, meaning customers must have purchased a subscription to Costco to be permitted entry to a store location.

Additionally, Costco stores are often within warehouses, providing the signature store layout. In fact, there are over 800 Costco stores currently in operation around the world as of 2024.

Costco also sells brand-name merchandise within stores, as well as specialty departments and services available exclusively for members.

Kirkland is also a private label exclusively available to Costco including products such as luggage, clothing, coffee, cookies, and more.

How is Costco Different From Other Stores?

Costco is different from other retailers, as, unlike most grocery stores, Costco requires its customers to have membership cards. In fact, the majority of the money Costco makes is through memberships, rather than products.

Costco has an operating philosophy of keeping its product costs down to offer savings to its members, which is why the company is so popular.

Costco also doesn’t spend money on advertising, which allows the company to gain higher profits.

Advertising products isn’t necessary at Costco as the brand and memberships advertise themselves, which allows the company to make more money.

What Types Of Stores Does Costco Have?

There are two central types of Costco stores, which include the main merchandise retail warehouses, as well as the Costco Business Centers, which cater exclusively to small businesses.

There are around 804 Costco stores in operation within the world, and sell products including household goods, garden goods, clothing, and food, which can often be purchased in bulk and at discounted prices.

Currently, there are only 17 Costco Business Centres in operation across the United States. While many products are the same, around 70% of merchandise within the Costco Business Centre cannot be found at a traditional Costco.

Why is Costco So Popular?

Costco is popular with customers for several reasons, one of the main being that a membership-based retailer adds a level of exclusivity for shoppers, which can be enticing.

The in-house brand at Costco, Kirkland, is also increasingly popular with customers, and can only be purchased from the retailer.

Additionally, the price of merchandise at Costco is also significantly lower than other retailers, which Costco can afford to offer due to its membership policy. Additionally, items at Costco can be bought in bulk.

Costco also operates its stores by selectively choosing the items offered. While most retailers offer 30,000 different products, Costco chooses around 4000 to allow its customers the best value for money on chosen products.

When Was Costco Started?

When Was Costco Started?

According to the Costco website, the first Costco location was opened in 1976. When Costco first opened, it was known as the Price Club, and operated as a membership club that was exclusively for business members.

In 1983, the first Costco Wholesale warehouse was opened in Washington. Both Costco Wholesale and Price Club would be operated separately, until 1993 when the retailers were merged to found the modern incarnation of Costco.

As a brand, Costco focused on helping customers to save money by offering low prices in exchange for a membership. The name Costco derives from the words ‘Cost Company’, indicating the company’s prerogative to help customers save.

What Memberships Does Costco Offer?

Costco offers four different memberships, which are the Gold Star Membership, Executive Membership, Business Membership, and Business Executive Membership.

All of the memberships offered by Costco will allow you to shop at Costco warehouses, Costco Business Centers, and online.

Costco also has a 100% satisfaction guarantee, meaning if you’re unhappy with your Costco membership you can cancel it at any point.

A Gold Star Membership is $60 per year and can be purchased by anyone over the age of 18. You can have 2 membership cards to Costco for you and someone within your household.

An Executive Membership at Costco is $120 per year, but has additional benefits. For example, you can receive a 2% annual reward, discounts, a Costco Connection magazine, as well as 2 membership cards.

A Costco Business Membership is $60 per year, and permits you to purchase for resale. You will receive 2 membership cards for Costco, and can add additional people for $60.

A Costco Business Executive Membership offers discounts on services, Costco Connection magazine, 2% annual rewards and enables you to purchase for resale purposes.

The Costco Business Membership also allows 2 membership cards, with additional cards able to be purchased for $60 each.

How Do I Join Costco?

If you wish to join Costco, there are several ways you can purchase a membership, such as the following:

1. Joining Costco In-store

You can visit your local Costco store and sign up at the warehouse by going to the membership counter and completing a membership application form.

If you wish to purchase a Gold Star membership from Costco, you will require a form of photo identification that indicates your current address and date of birth.

For your Costco membership card, you’ll also be required to have a photograph taken. Then, you will receive your card and can begin shopping at Costco.

If you wish to have a business membership, Costco requires your ABN certificate or business license, identification as the owner of the business, and personal photo identification.

For a secondary household card at Costco, you will need to bring the person with a form of identification. Your secondary card at Costco can be for your spouse, partner or family member over the age of 18.

You will also be required to create an online account to shop online at Costco, using the membership card number to create one.

2. Joining Costco Online

You can purchase your Costco membership online using the website. To do so, choose from the Executive, Business or Gold Star membership at Costco and add it to your cart, and then complete your membership application.

You will then purchase your Costco membership like a regular online purchase. However, you will be required to collect your Costco card from the membership counter, as the cards can’t arrive in the mail.

To know more about Costco, you can also read our related posts on the Costco competitors, Costco statistics & facts, and also if China owns Costco.


Costco is a wholesale retailer known for its large warehouse setting and home-brand, Kirkland. A membership is required to gain access to Costco, with prices starting at $60 per year.

Customers favour Costco as it offers lower prices than competitors, as well as items that can be bought in bulk.

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Marques Thomas

Marques Thomas graduated with a MBA in 2011. Since then, Marques has worked in the retail and consumer service industry as a manager, advisor, and marketer. Marques is also the head writer and founder of QuerySprout.com.

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