Over the years, Costco
has gradually expanded its range of products and services
. Initially it preferred to sell only boxed products that could be dispensed by simply tearing the shrinkwrap off a pallet. It now sells many other products that are more difficult to handle, such as fresh produce, meat, dairy, seafood, fresh baked goods, flowers, clothing, books, computer software, vacuums, Home appliances, home electronics, solar panels, jewelry, tires, art, fine wine, hot tubs, furniture and caskets. Many warehouses have tire garages, pharmacies, hearing aid centers, optometrists, photo processors, and gas stations. Optometrists working at Costco locations will see patients without Costco memberships.
Costco Optical ranks as the fourth-largest optical company in the US. A membership is required to fill a prescription at the optical department.
Some locations have liquor stores, often kept separate from the main warehouse in order to comply with liquor license restrictions. In some states (such as Texas), the liquor store must be owned and operated by a separate company with separate employees. In 2006, Costco lost a lawsuit against the state of Washington in which it was seeking to purchase wine directly from the producer, bypassing the state retail monopoly. In Australia, Costco has to comply with regulations set by each state they choose trade in; their first store in the state of Victoria benefits from some of the most liberal alcohol licensing laws in the country, with retailers permitted to sell alcohol on shelves within the store, in a manner similar to most European countries, yet they have chosen to have a separate checkout within the liquor section.
Kirkland Signature is Costco's store brand, otherwise known in the retail industry as an "own-brand," "house brand" or "private label." It is found exclusively at Costco's website and Costco warehouses and is trademarked by the company. The name derives from the fact that Costco's corporate headquarters was located in the city of Kirkland, Washington between 1987 and 1996.
Costco introduced Kirkland Signature as its house brand in 1995. The idea was to identify categories in which a private label product could provide brand name quality at discounted prices.
To counteract the consumer confidence problem common in store branding, Kirkland Signature sometimes relies on co-branding. According to Costco, while consumers may be wary of same-store-branding, they are less likely to be wary of brands that they are familiar with and trust.
Costco acts as an investment broker and travel agent. They have introduced an automobile purchasing program where members can purchase new cars at specially arranged prices. However, it has been disputed whether buyers using this auto-buying program actually save any money or time in comparison with other auto buying methods. Costco has an agreement with Ameriprise for auto and home insurance. In 2004 Costco offered an original artwork by artist Pablo Picasso on their online store; more recently[when?] a highly-regarded 1982 Mouton Rothschild wine was offered as well as other rare wines in rotation.
Costco Photo Center is a multi-functional photography printing lab offering services at the warehouses as well as through their web site, costcophotocenter.com. The website provides free unlimited digital file storage with a current membership. Previous to May or June 2010, Costco had an agreement with Mypublisher.com for custom book and calendar publishing. Now, they print the photobooks and calendars themselves.
The domain costco.com attracted at least 58 million visitors in 2008 according to a Compete.com survey. Costco has three e-commerce websites including costco.com for the US market, costco.ca for Canada and costco.co.uk for the United Kingdom.
Costco Travel is a wholly owned subsidiary of Costco Wholesale, and offers leisure travel to Costco members of the United States. The program was established in 2000 as a service to Costco members. Costco Travel’s offices are located in Issaquah, Washington, adjacent to Costco’s corporate headquarters. Costco Travel employs 290 travel professionals, all of whom are Costco employees.
The program offers vacation packages to Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, Orlando, the South Pacific, the Desert Southwest and Las Vegas. Other products include cruises, guided vacations, theme park packages, houseboat rentals, hotel-only lodging and luxury vacation rentals. Select products feature additional benefits for Costco Executive Members.
The program is marketed directly to Costco members through various Costco avenues, including the Travel Guide to Savings (found in all U.S. Costco warehouses), online in the Travel section of Costco.com, The Costco Connection magazine, weekly broadcast e-mails, direct mail pieces, multi-vendor coupon booklets, Costco warehouse road shows, and other exclusive Costco projects and events.
Most Costco locations have a food court, offering a quarter-pound 100% beef hot dog or polish sausage and 20 oz drink (with refill) for $1.50, the same price since 1985. In Australia the hot dog is made of pork and is sold at A$2.49 with large soda. In Mexico, the hot dog is made of pork, and includes a drink (with refill) for $25 MXN. In the UK, the hot dog is also made from beef and you also get a drink (with refill) for £1.50. Costco sold more than 82 million quarter-pound hot dogs in its food courts in 2008. Pizza is also available in most locations as cheese, pepperoni, veggie, or combo, and can be ordered to go at many locations. Frozen yogurt is also served in chocolate, vanilla, or swirled together. Also offered are berry smoothies, mocha latte freezes, chicken bake and their new Asada bake, sandwiches, turkey wraps, twisted churros, chicken Caesar salads, and in some locations, gelato. French fries are also offered in some locations. Due to slow sales, the pretzel was replaced by the churro. The nutrition data for the Costco Food Court items is posted online. In April 2010, certain Costco warehouses in the U.S. and Canada replaced their Coca-Cola drink fountain selections with Pepsi, accompanied with a change in labels on the disposable cups