Most of us have memories of Costco that take us back to our childhood — we associate the retailer with free samples, bulk boxes of candy, food for cottage weekends or camping trips, toys, and electronics. Oh, and those famous hot dogs — a shameless guilty pleasure. But fashion? Not so much – at least, not for millennials. Their parents, however, are a different story, according to retail analysts.
While the younger generation has slowly started steer clear of fast fashion thanks to its detrimental impacts on the environment, older generations, on the other hand, are dropping hard-earned dollars on cheap duds.
Their fast fashion retailer of choice is good old Costco.
The harsh lighting and absence of change rooms, mannequins, or a staff that specializes in retail doesn’t seem to faze the Costco clothing shoppers. Somewhere in between the sale of bulk salmon, discounted electronics, and limitless snacks, Costco quietly became a fast fashion leader.
As the Washington Post highlights, Costco generated $7-billion in annual sales in clothing and footwear – more than Old Navy, Ralph Lauren, or Neiman Marcus. In fact, its revenue generated from fashion has been growing at a rate of about 9 per cent a year for the past four years which is surprisingly quicker than its food or electronics business.
While Costco has its own in-house clothing label, Kirkland, it also receives shipments of unsold brand name inventory, which they sell for extremely discounted rates.
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Costco has become the unlikely supplier of brands like Tory Burch, Nike, Eddie Bauer, Calvin Klein, Ugg, Tommy Hilfiger, and Birkenstock, just to name a few.
Such brands choose to associate themselves with a historically unglamorous company like Costco due to its largely affluent customer base. The average Costco shopper has an annual household income of over $100,000.
“I don’t necessarily come to Costco specifically for the clothing, but items often catch my eye and end up in my cart,” Kathryn, a 50-year-old mom of two teenagers tells me at Costco’s East York location, where customers include the nearby well-to-do Leaside residents.
“It seems the clothing selection has gotten more stylish in recent years.” While Kathryn says she’s gotten repeat wear from her Costco finds – some of which have become wardrobe staples – for many, this isn’t necessarily the case.
Just because people may be buying Costco clothing, doesn’t mean they’re necessarily wearing it on the regular. Don’t forget that you can’t try on the cheap finds in-store, after all.
This means that, while Costco’s success in clothing has been a positive thing for the company and the closets of countless baby boomers, its fast fashion model isn’t doing the environment any favours.
Not that the younger set needs the refresher, but fast fashions cheaply made and super trendy clothes have a short closet life and make their way into landfills at alarming rates, where they take hundreds of years to break down.
The industry is also one of the biggest consumers of water globally. Furthermore, fast fashion can negatively impact garment workers, who often work in dangerous, sub-par environments, for low wages and without basic human rights.
But the fast fashion industry continues to thrive, fuelled in part by companies like Costco.
At a time when countless retailers – including the fast fashion variety – are closing their doors, Costco shows no signs of slowing down. Its 85 million members around the globe continue to pay the annual fee of $60 and up for access to the discounts (and samples) that await inside the warehouse-like space.
Featured Image: Instagram/@hyejiris
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