11 ways Costco has changed this year

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Costco is one of America’s most beloved retailers. Millions of people own Warehouse Club memberships and spend countless hours each year browsing its shelves.

But nothing in life stays the same, and that includes Costco. Every year, changes – some minor, some major – make their presence felt in the store. And 2021 is no exception.

Here are several major ways Costco is changing this year.

1. High prices

Costco receipt
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Not even Costco is immune to inflationary pressures. If the totals in your latest Costco receipts seem a little higher, it may not be your imagination.

The company’s chief financial officer, Richard Galante, said in a quarterly earnings call dated September 23:

“[W]e may estimate the overall price inflation for the products we sell in the range of 3.5% to 4.5%.”

2. Some items are available in limited quantities

Kirkland Bottled Water at Costco
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On a recent quarterly earnings call, Galanti noted that Costco is “putting some limits on key elements.” These items include:

  • bath tissue
  • Tissue paper
  • Kirkland special water
  • High demand cleaning supplies

For more details, check out “Costco sets limits on these four products.”

3. The mask policy has been relaxed

Woman removing her face mask
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Like most retailers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Costco has required all shoppers to wear face coverings for most of 2020 and into this year.

Now, you may or may not be required to wear a mask at your local club, depending on the location. As of late August, Costco’s mask policy states:

“Costco locations will follow applicable state and local jurisdiction face mask regulations. In communities where COVID-19 transmission is high or significant, in accordance with current CDC guidance, Costco strongly recommends that all members and guests wear face masks within our locations.”

4. ‘Senior’ hours have been reduced

First Shopper at Costco
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Since the pandemic began, Costco has hosted special opening hours for shoppers 60 and older who have disabilities or who are immunocompromised. The idea was to keep the most vulnerable Costco shoppers safer as the coronavirus spreads.

The threat of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 may start to wane again, but the watches for seniors are staying in place — up to a point. Currently, it’s 9-10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, reflecting a recent drop from five days a week.

Only members who meet the criteria will be able to shop during these hours, and may not bring guests during this time.

If you take advantage of Costco’s senior opening hours, you may also want to check out “11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco.”

5. Perishable items are available through CostcoGrocery

Delivery driver receives the package
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As we recently reported, you can now order a selection of cold and frozen foods through CostcoGrocery and get two-day delivery.

Previously, the two-day service was limited to non-rotten. Items you can buy now for two-day delivery include:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • delicious food
  • Cheese and dairy products
  • Drinks

6. Back to the dining halls

Costco food court customers
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Costco’s food court is a shell of what it used to be, thanks to the pandemic. However, this beloved aspect of the Costco membership is on its way back to its former glory.

All dining venues are now open, although selection varies by location and seating may be limited.

“The food courts are back,” Costco’s chief financial officer Richard Galanti said of this portion of the company’s business in the September 23 quarterly earnings call.

7. Membership fees are expected to increase

Costco Executive Membership Card
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In an age of inflation, it’s perhaps not surprising that Costco’s membership fees will soon increase. As mentioned, Wells Fargo analysts predicted in March that Costco will likely raise membership fees sometime over the next 18 months.

Costco last raised fees in 2017, raising the membership price by $10 for a Gold Star Executive package and $5 for a Gold Star Everyday membership.

When Costco’s Galanti was asked about the retailer’s membership fees in May, he admitted that Costco has historically increased its fees every five years and that the last increase was four years ago. But he stopped short of emphasizing a fee increase on the way, saying, “We’ll have to wait and see.”

In September, Galanti said customer loyalty is the main factor Costco takes into account when evaluating a membership fee increase. He completed:

“And certainly, loyalty and renewal rates went up.”

8. COVID-19 Vaccines Available

Vaccination against corona virus
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Costco pharmacies offer COVID-19 vaccines to anyone who needs them. The rules are as follows:

  • All individuals 12 years of age or older are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in the United States
  • Only Pfizer’s vaccine is approved for 12-17 year olds.
  • Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for those age 18 and over.

In many locations, you can simply walk in and ask for an immediate vaccination. Or you can make an appointment. Costco notes that either way, it’s best to call ahead to make sure the vaccine is available at the exact warehouse location you plan to visit.

9. More clubs get self checkout

Costco self-exit lines
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Costco is increasing the number of its warehouses offering self-checkout lines. The company said at a meeting of shareholders in January that nearly two-thirds of US and Canadian sites had already offered self-check-out at that point and that the number was expected to rise to more than 90% this year.

10. The minimum wage is higher

Workers demand $15 minimum wage
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While labor activists are demanding a nationwide minimum wage of $15, Costco already exists — and then some.

In February, the retailer raised the minimum wage for its workers to $16 an hour. Costco CEO Craig Jelinek noted that 89% of Costco workers are also eligible for health care benefits.

11. Photo booths in stores have disappeared

Costco Photo Center
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Finally, Costco bid for in-store photo centers.

The move – which happened last Valentine’s Day – may have broken some members’ hearts. But cheer up: You can still order from the Costco Photo Center for delivery to your home or business location.

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