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Costco’s Crackdown on Membership Sharing


Costco Wholesale has recently made headlines for its strict enforcement against membership sharing. This move comes at a time when Netflix is also taking action against password sharing. While using a friend’s membership card may not be traditionally viewed as stealing, it ultimately amounts to a fraudulent action that impacts the company’s bottom line.

The issue of retail theft, commonly referred to as shrink, has become increasingly significant. Target, along with other retailers, has emphasized the severity of this problem. According to the National Retail Federation, shrink amounted to a staggering $94.5 billion in losses in 2022. Additionally, a majority of consumers believe that retail crime is on the rise in their communities.

Although some shoppers may be tempted to “forget” to scan items at self-checkouts due to high inflation, organized retail crime presents a larger concern. Such crimes can even turn violent, posing a threat to both customers and employees.

In the grand scheme of things, using someone else’s Costco card may be considered a relatively minor offense. Nevertheless, it contributes to the broader issue of shrinkage, which has been amplified by the prevalence of self-checkout systems.

Costco’s Policy on Membership Cards

A spokesperson from Costco recently revealed that their policy clearly states that membership cards are not transferable. Lately, the company has observed an increasing number of nonmembers using cards that do not belong to them at their self-service checkouts.

To address this issue, Costco has now implemented a new requirement. In addition to asking for the membership card at checkout, they are now also asking to see a photo on the card at their self-service checkout registers.

Costco’s competitors, such as Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings, did not respond to our request for comment on this matter.

While some individuals may view this as a victimless act, assuming that Costco still receives payment for the merchandise purchased, it is important to consider the larger picture. Costco’s membership fees are a significant source of revenue for the company. Without these fees, they would have to increase product prices to compensate.

In 2022 alone, membership fees contributed a staggering $4.22 billion to Costco’s revenue. Furthermore, the income from membership fees has experienced a 6% year-over-year growth in the most recent fiscal third quarter. Both domestic and international renewal rates have also seen an increase, reaching 92.5% and 90.5% respectively.

The spokesperson emphasized the importance of membership fees for Costco, stating that they play a crucial role in keeping prices as low as possible by offsetting operational expenses.

Costco’s dedication to maintaining affordable prices signifies the significance of their membership fee structure and underlines the adherence to their policy regarding membership card usage.

Membership Fees: A Stabilizing Force for Costco

Membership fees play a crucial role in stabilizing Costco’s operations amidst the turbulent retail landscape. Unlike its competitors who have long abandoned the practice, Costco continues to provide monthly same-store sales updates, underscoring its commitment to transparency.

Despite operating with razor-thin margins, Costco’s membership fees significantly contribute to its bottom line. This is primarily due to its low-markup model and the fact that membership revenue accounts for approximately half of its operating profit.

Industry experts support this notion. TD Cowen analyst Oliver Chen projects a long-term revenue and earnings per share growth of 7% to 8% for Costco. Meanwhile, William Blair analyst Phillip Blee highlights the potential for additional earnings upside through membership fee increases.

Moreover, it’s worth mentioning that Costco consistently leads the industry in combating shoplifting, a testament to its dedication to preserving its profits.

In conclusion, membership fees not only provide stability amidst a challenging retail environment but also serve as a major source of revenue for Costco. As the company continues to prioritize customer satisfaction and value, it remains committed to maintaining its competitive edge.

And as a side note, rest assured that the famous $1.50 hot dog and soda combo will always be an incredible steal.

Contact information has been removed from the original article.

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