- We visited Costco locations in the US and UK.
- The shopping experience was near identical on both sides of the Atlantic.
- The main difference we found was in the food assortment.
We visited Costco in Rochester, New York to see how it compares to the big box store’s UK locations.
As we walked in, a greeter at the door reminds people to have their membership cards out. We walked by the membership center, where potential customers can join.
Walking past the carts and greeters, we entered the gigantic Costco warehouse.
In my location, large electronics are on display near the entrance, with TVs stacked up on huge shelves.
There’s never just one of any item, they seem to keep going almost endlessly.
Ceilings are extremely high, and stocks of products extend nearly all the way up. Many of the largest products at Costco are located along this side wall.
You could outfit an entire home from the appliances in Costco, including washing machines, dryers, refrigerators, dishwashers, and more.
Then there are dozens of types of smaller appliances, like toaster ovens, coffee makers, and Instant Pots.
Finally, along this wall there are mattresses.
Then, we finally made our way to the food. Brand name snacks mostly made up the center displays, sitting on pallets.
Products are loosely organized by type, like snacks with snacks or baked goods with baked goods, but it’s so overwhelming that it’s good to come in with a game plan.
For the most part, every section is inside the main warehouse itself, but dairy and some fruits and vegetables have their own separate sections off the main area.
The rooms are like a smaller version of the main area, with shelves along the walls and pallets in the center. The room is kept colder than the rest of the store to keep produce fresh.
Some staples always seem to be available in the produce section, while others change out seasonally.
Back out in the main warehouse is the bakery with fresh and packaged goods.
Fresh baked goods are displayed right in front of the kitchen.
You can look back behind the counter and see the bakery employees preparing more products.
You can also buy custom cakes and order them in store.
The rest of the back wall next to the bakery is a deli and meat counter.
This is where you can find the chain’s famous $US5 ($AU7) rotisserie chickens.
Rows and rows of refrigerated cases hold more meat products.
More freezer aisles hold butter, cheese, and some refrigerated prepared meals.
Costco changes out inventory to go with the season, in this case a cannoli kit, macarons, and other holiday dishes to share.
Other displays clearly show we’re getting into December and the holiday season with sparkling grape juice and hot cocoa.
The rest of that side of the store is aisles of food and drinks.
Huge freezers are full of frozen meals, desserts, and other dishes.
The dairy room is also off of this section of the store.
Back in the center of the store are more non-food items.
There are rows and rows of coats, sweatshirts, leggings, sweatpants, and other clothing for men, women, and children.
It doesn’t stop there. Just about everything you could possibly need is probably available at Costco.
There are mega packs of batteries…
…the newest Phones…
…and Christmas decor.
Another small section has flowers and pre-made bouquets.
Beyond the flowers, Costco has a few mini-stores with services inside, including the pharmacy here.
An optical section looks like any standalone eyeglasses store, with hundreds of pairs to try on.
There’s also a hearing aid center for customers.
From there we went to get in line to checkout. The line always extends out into the aisles.
There are probably about 15 checkout lanes staffed by Costco workers, plus a few self-checkout lanes.
There are all kinds of boxes around checkout to help you carry all your purchases to your car.
Just past the checkout lanes, the food court sells food and drinks, and tables have returned since early COVID restrictions.
Next, we headed to a Costco store in South London’s Croydon on an icy December evening.
This was our first visit to a Costco store in the UK and on first impression, the layout was almost identical to its US equivalent. The first area I encountered was Costco’s in-house opticians where you can buy eyeglasses, lenses, and have eye tests done.
The front of the store was similarly home to large appliances and electronics such as fridges, stoves, and TVs.
Close by was a large assortment of seasonal products such as Christmas trees and decorations that customers could easily access as they entered the store, along with the odd wild card such as hot tubs.
All the pricier items seemed to be located directly at the front of the store, making it impossible for shoppers to miss them.
As I headed deeper into the store, it became apparent just how giant this location was.
Products were stacked up sky-high on shelves and the breadth of the assortment was unlike any other store I have been to.
Next, I headed to the grocery section, which was right at the back of the store.
Similar to the US store, there was a separate room dedicated to fresh produce, which is considerably chillier to keep groceries fresh.
Costco’s widely popular rotisserie chickens were in a prominent place, costing £3.99, matching the US’ $US5 ($AU7) version.
It was in the food section that it became most apparent that the assortment does differ in US and UK Costcos. Here we spotted lots of British meat.
And local favorites such as Victoria sponge cake or Cornish clotted cream.
But there was a good assortment of international cuisine too – ready-made curries, Spanish tortillas, and ramen, for example.
We spotted some household US names too.
Costco’s widely popular Kirkland brand products could be seen all around the store, including Kirkland wines that cost under $US20 ($AU29).
Mountains of cheap clothing, books, and children’s toys were piled up on tables in the center of the store.
I spotted basics from well-known brands such as Under Armour and Puma in this fairly chaotic mix.
As I headed toward the checkout, I passed by rows of snack foods tactfully positioned to tempt shoppers en route.
Beauty and healthcare products took up a large area next to the checkout too.
And in the distance, the bright lights of the food court beckoned.
Along with its signature £1.50 ($US2 ($AU3)) hot dog that’s served with a soda, you could pick up pizza slices, a chicken sandwich, and the old UK favorite: cottage pie, a dish with minced beef and mashed potato.
As customers lined up to show their sales slips to exit the store, Costco made one last push to market other member services such as discounted car hire or life insurance.
There was also a place to buy tires (or tyres) and have punctures repaired.
Overall, the shopping experience at the two stores was near identical aside from some key differences in the food goods on offer so die-hard fans on either side of the Atlantic can rest easy knowing that they’re not missing out.