Discount Warehouses: Which Is for You?

Retailers such as Macy’s (Stock Quote: M), Nordstrom (Stock Quote: JWN) and Kohl’s (Stock Quote: KSS) may be taking it on the chin during the recession, but same-store sales at  discount warehouses such as BJ’s Wholesale Club (Stock Quote: BJ), Costco (Stock Quote: COST), and Sam’s Club (Stock Quote: WMT) have actually increased.

If you’re looking to find out which store is best for your wallet, here is a quick comparison of the three largest discount warehouses:

BJ’s Warehouse
Total stores (U.S.): 180
Sales (FY 2007-2008): $8.8 billion
Membership cost: $45 per year
Average square footage: 115,000 square feet
Specialty: Organic foods and gasoline
Customers: BJ’s Warehouse appeals to shoppers in different income segments. The heart of its business lies in the Northeast.
Top buys: Food and drugs (75%), computers, consumer electronics, clothes books, apparel, tires and appliances
Recent deals:
Liquid Dial Gold Antimicrobial Soap (1 gal.): $6.99
Berkley & Jensen 200mg Ibuprofen Tablets (750 Ct): $9.99
Wet Ones Antibacterial Wipes (144 Ct): $9.99

Costco
Total stores (US 2008): 512
Sales (FY 2007-2008): $48 billion
Membership cost: $50 per year
Average square footage: 132,00 square feet
Specialty:  Premium and high-end products such as electronics, jewelry, seafood and fine wine.
Customers:  Costco is the “discount warehouse of choice” for affluent and high-income earners, according to Chicago-based market research company Mintel International Group.
Top buys: Food and drugs (87%), appliances, electronics and computers
Recent deals:
Tylenol Extra Strength Caplets (500mg): $8.89
Johnson’s Cotton Swabs (375 ct): $3.66
Softsoap Naturals Hand Soap with Aloe (7.5 oz. pump): $1.39

Sam’s Club
Total stores (US): 590
Total sales (FY 2007-2008): $44 billion
Membership cost: $40 (regular); $100 (premium) per year
Average square footage: 132,000 sq ft
Specialty: Office products for business owners.
Customers: Mintel’s analysts refer to Sam’s Club as “the everyman’s warehouse club” because of its appeal to people of all income groups.
Recent deals:
Charmin Premium Bathroom Tissue: $4.57
Members Mark Washcloths (288 ct.): $13.86
Colgate-Palmolive  Pure & Clear Sparkling Fresh Dish Liquid (20 oz.): $3.64

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