If you're lucky enough to hold a Costco membership, you know that one of the things that sets it apart is a certain stability in a grocery retail world that can feel increasingly desperate to seize our attention via flashy gimmicks that also serve to distract from how expensive everything seems to be getting. But as much as Costco-holics might fear change, the company still has to make some adjustments now and then, even as the cheap $1.50 Costco hot dog combo meal price stays eternally right where it's always been.
Some of these changes will be seen as good by Costco shoppers, while others will probably be less well received, but whether it's good, bad, or indifferent, it never hurts to get the intel on any big changes ahead of time rather than being surprised in the heat of the shopping moment. So here are a few notable changes that are either already being made or may come to Costco in 2024.
Read more: All The Benefits Of A Costco Membership
Costco Is Trying To Crack Down On Card Sharing
You've always needed to be a member to shop and enjoy all the benefits at Costco, but the company seems to be trying out more stringent enforcement of that rule in the new year. Where before, a single Costco employee could often be found at the entrance doing eyeball checks on membership cards (which are still usually checked again at the register), at least one Costco shopper on Reddit has discovered new card scanners at the door as of January 2024.
That tracks with reports from 2023 that Costco was planning to crack down on membership card sharing. So if you've been letting friends or family members mooch off your Costco annual membership, or if you've been the beneficiary of such an arrangement, this could be bad news for your Costco future. A June 2023 press statement (via USA Today) from Costco on the matter explains the rationale for such measures: "We don't feel it's right that non-members receive the same benefits and pricing as our members. Costco is able to keep our prices as low as possible because our membership fees help offset our operational expenses, making our membership fee and structure important to us." For many Costco members, a more involved card-checking process might be a small price to pay for those precious Costco deals.
A New CEO Is Taking The Reins
In the corporate realm of the Costco universe, the store has been guided by the hand of CEO Craig Jelinek (pictured) since 2012, but in February 2022, it was announced that 40-year Costco vet Ron Vachris would eventually be stepping into the role of CEO. Now, that change is taking place: Jelinek is set to remain onboard in an advisory capacity until April 2024, and Vachris is the new CEO as of the end of 2023.
The story of Vachris becoming CEO of Costco is not the usual tale of corporate succession, even though his ascension to the position has been in the works for a while. Vachris' 40-year run up the Costco ladder hasn't taken place solely in corporate boardrooms — he started as a forklift operator way back in 1982 for a store called Price Club, which ended up merging with Costco about a decade later. He worked his way up the chain into management and ultimately corporate positions, and now he's the new CEO of Costco.
There Are Plenty Of New Costco Locations In The Works
If you're reading an article like this one while living outside the convenient vicinity of a Costco location, your sense of missing out on the fun, convenience, and savings of a Costco membership is probably palpable. So you'll be pleased to know that Costco's own official website has a list that shows a number of new retail locations set to open in the first six months of 2024.
Costco is opening stores in such cities as Daytona, Florida, and Richmond, Texas, and even international locales like Jiangning, China, and Zaragoza, Spain, over the course of the first half of 2024. The Costco empire is constantly expanding, and if the company's plans for the latter half of 2024 are comparable to the first half, your chances of finding yourself within a reasonable drive of a Costco emporium get higher and higher as time goes on.
Fresno Might See The Largest Costco Yet Built
Right now, the largest Costco in the world can be found in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the company's hybrid business center and regular store is located. The Costco business center model is designed not for individuals or families but small business owners looking to purchase goods and supplies in even larger quantities than those available at a typical Costco, and in Salt Lake City, the company has a massive location sprawled across 235,000 square feet to serve both them and regular customers. But if a draft environmental impact report released by the City of Fresno Planning and Development Department is accurate, Salt Lake City will lose its title as the home of the biggest Costco on the planet.
The proposed Costco in Fresno will measure in 241,342 square feet, edging out the Salt Lake City location. If that sounds like an impossible amount of space even for a Costco, know that customers won't have the run of the entire store, as similarly to Salt Lake City's hybrid model, this Costco will be a hybrid between a traditional Costco and a warehouse specifically for fulfillment of internet orders.
As of this writing, no further word on the project has come out since the July 2023 report, and no timetable for the location's opening has been given. The giant warehouse is not currently shown in Costco's list of new locations, which includes a business center opening in Anchorage, but hopefully for Fresno Costco aficionados, more news on the project and when it will be completed will be made public soon.
The Costco App Is Supposed To Be Improving
As loyal and satisfied as most Costco members seem to be with the shopping experience, the store's app has been prioritized for improvements by the company. The new Costco app is set to improve on the old with new features and a better user interface.
On a Costco earnings call in September 2023 (via The Motley Fool), it was announced by Costco's director, executive vice president, and chief financial officer Richard Galanti that various improvements to the Costco app had already been made, including the addition of features like digital membership cards and shopping list management tools. Upcoming features include direct warehouse inventory search and in-app barcode scans.
While additional improvements to the Costco mobile experience will hopefully be welcome to Costco shoppers, it seems that the company has already earned itself a lot of goodwill in this regard, as according to those same earnings call remarks, the app had already crawled up to a 4.7-star rating from a "dismal" 2.3 over the course of 2023.
Churros Are Out, Cookies Are In
Not all the changes being made by Costco are going to be universally good. In late 2023, Costco introduced the Kirkland Signature Double Chocolate Chunk Cookie, another one of the chain's innovations in cheap, giant foodstuffs. That's all well and good, but as one user on Reddit pointed out, the giant cookies seemed to be replacing the store's well-loved churros, a casualty of the march of dessert progress.
Granted, a number of Redditors replied that they hadn't been as fond of those churros as they were the "old," non-twisted churros from decades prior, so maybe the move will indeed be a satisfying one for most shoppers. The new cookies do seem to be getting a generally positive reception, but if you were a devotee of Costco's churros, the early part of 2024 could be a rough period as you adjust to your new food court normal.
You Can Now Get Magic Spoon Cereal At Costco In Certain Areas
The Magic Spoon cereal brand is centered on the most powerful force in the universe: nostalgia. To be more precise, it seeks to replicate the breakfast cereals that brightened our childhoods -- but in healthier, less sugar-choked forms. The brand had already accumulated a cult following when it was only available online, but in January 2024, it was announced on the official Magic Spoon Instagram account that the brand's "Fruity" cereal was available on Costco shelves.
Unfortunately, Magic Spoon's availability at Costco doesn't appear to be universal as of yet. The initial post stated that the cereal would be available at Costcos located in the Midwest and northwestern United States, as well as Los Angeles and Texas. But it also referred to plans to expand to even more territories in the near future, and a subsequent Instagram post added the northeastern U.S. and San Francisco Bay area to the list. So if the cereal's success keeps up, you can probably expect to see it at your local Costco (and at other stores too) before too long.
Food Courts Are Being Outfitted With Standing-Only Tables
One thing that shopping at Costco requires is a lot of walking around. After a hard day of lugging bulk-quantity snack food from point A to B, the Costco food court traditionally offers a place to sit down, eat, and rest. But in September 2023, a Costco shopper in South Korea took to Reddit to show an ominous sight: The local Costco's traditional tables and chairs had been replaced with new standing-only tables. A Redditor from Montana responded that they'd spotted a few standing tables at their Costco, as well, but that tables with seats remained available.
Is this a sign of things to come? A Reddit thread from January 2024 discussed rumors of this change being made across the entire Costco chain, something that has not happened yet as of this writing but seems to have quite a few shoppers concerned. "I think it would be a bad move," a Redditor stated. "I sometimes shop with elderly parents and they'll grab something from the food court and sit to rest as they can't stand for an hour at a time. It's definitely a negative move if they plan to roll it out to all locations."
From a customer service (and comfort) perspective, this particular change, if widely implemented, would probably be seen as a downgrade by most Costco food court fans. Few may wish to start enjoying Costco hot dogs and sodas in their cars instead of in the food court.
A Costco Membership Price Hike Is On The Way, Possibly This Year
As of this writing, an annual "Gold Star" Costco membership costs $60 a year, and most members seem to find the discounts and other perks of shopping at Costco more than worth the cost of $5 per month. But the company has been up-front about the prospect of a price increase, and in its September 2023 earnings call, it was described as a "matter of when, not if."
The last price hike for a Costco membership came in 2017, so it has been several years since the rate was raised. And as Costco exec Richard Galanti described it in the earnings call, the metrics at the time were good enough to not make such a move immediately necessary. "We haven't needed to do it. We like providing extreme value. Certainly, while we've gone a little longer than the average increase, we feel we certainly have driven more value to the membership," he said, while also reaffirming that such a price increase is still inevitable after a certain time period.
Will that period elapse in 2024? And how much would such a price increase be? The answers to those questions are still in the uncertain future. But you should definitely try to get the most out of those $60 annual Costco memberships while you can!
Read the original article on Daily Meal.