That’s what Bloomberg Businessweek set out to figure out in a profile of the chain recently. It’s not that they’re the only warehouse club, or even the first. (They did merge with the very first, Price Club, in the early ’90s.) New England birthed BJ’s, and the South and parent company Walmart have given us Sam’s Club. The difference is that Costco, born on the West Coast and thriving in large, wealthy metropolitan areas, has a niche as an upscale warehouse store.
“I just think people need to make a living wage with health benefits,” Costco CEO Craig Jelinek told Businessweek. “It also puts more money back into the economy and creates a healthier country. It’s really that simple.” That shouldn’t sound so jarring, but anyone who knows anything about the retail industry realizes that’s a pretty unusual thing to hear a CEO say. Happiness is intangible, but Costco employees are definitely loyal. Earning an average of more than $20 per hour plus benefits (and occasional overtime) they have extremely low turnover once they’ve stayed on for a year.