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vkg,

You wrote, Costco carries limited brands. Whether or not you like them will depend on how you like their brands.

The same is true of Sam's Club.

However Sam's Club generally doesn't carry any (or at least many) Walmart / Sam's Club branded products. Costco carries a competing line of the most commonly purchased items. The brand name is Kirkland, which for some reason is also the name of the city where my Costco is located. ;-)

Costco quality control is pretty good. Most Kirkland products are as good as the name brands. While the Costco price on most name brand items are the same or slightly higher than Sam's, if you opt for the available Kirkland brands I think you come out cheaper.

Walmart does sell some of its own branded (or co-branded) items. And some are worth buying. I have no idea why those items are not available in its various Sam's Clubs. But in general, Sam's Club only offers 1 or 2, but never more than 3 brands of any given product. That's the same with Costco - but Costco is likely to have a Kirkland brand be one of those options. (There may be exceptions for a few things like TVs.)

BTW, I saw a TV report / documentary on Costco a year or two ago. Costco explained that limiting consumer options is an active part of their strategy. They don't want too many options available as it increases the time people spend making a purchasing decision. People generally have a limited amount of time available, so if they feel they're being presented a couple of good options at a good price, they make a purchase quickly and move on to the next item. This increases how much Costco can sell to a given customer in the time they have available.

They also claim they do little more than break even on most items. In fact, about half of their profit can be attributed to membership dues.

They also intentionally randomize the store's layout periodically. (They do this MUCH more often than Sam's Club, in my experience.) That's because they want to force you to go down every aisle to see what is available today. Part of the rational for that is that Costco does special and seasonal buys of various products. Forcing their customers to search for products they normally purchase also encourages them to discover new merchandise that might have not been available on their last trip - and might not be available on the next.

I found this last item particularly frustrating when I first started going to Costco because it broke up a long-standing shopping pattern I had at Sam's Club - I could literally buy everything I needed in 30mins or less at Sam's because I knew that store's layout and with wide aisles I could weave through store foot traffic quickly.

- Joel
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