The Most Exclusive Club: How To Get Your Product Into Costco

WeStock Team
March 16, 2023

The most exclusive membership-only club in town, and certainly our club of choice on a Saturday. Except unlike other clubs, this one instead of a handstamp to get in, your receipt gets stamped on the way out. Costo is really the legend of the bulk world, they have everything you need from kayaks to TVs to wine to cheese to chips. For many food and beverage and CPG brands, Costco is the holy grail of retailers. With their loyal card holders, it can be a great place to introduce yourself to new customers and capture their attention and increase brand recognition.

Step 1: Perfect Your Product

If you are hoping to get into Costco, hopefully your product is already in a good place but moving towards Costco’s shelves means you really need to ensure everything is good to go. Talk to customers about improvements, make sure your branding and packaging feels like the right fit (having to do a rebrand when already in stores would be a huge blow to brand recognition so best to do any big changes beforehand. You need to feel super confident when you go meet with their buyer.

Step 2: Get Visible

PR, advertising, and marketing are your new best friends. Before you even meet with a buyer try to get on their radar through all or some of these channels. Think about where the buyers are spending their time, are they reading trade publications, following local or regional stories, keeping an eye on consumer media etc.. the list goes on. Your goal is to get in front of them organically (and potential Costco customers too) so that when you go to pitch them they already have a sense of the brand and can say “Oh yeah I saw this brand on xyzzy.” That helps build credibility and trust too. And, on the other side of the coin, getting more visible on consumer-facing channels will help your product move on the shelf when you get accepted.

Step 3: Think National, Start Local

Every Costco store is working with a different demographic and with that, oftentimes different products. You will find different items in a Costco on Oahu than you will in Omaha or Atlanta. Even if your dream is to be in every single Costco store, it’s best to start small while thinking big. We suggest setting up an appointment with the store manager at a Costco or two near where you are based (if you are a sad soul without one in close driving distance make it a day trip!) Bring samples of your product, enough for the other staff to try too, and some notes to speak from. Since this isn’t the buyer we suggest making this a more personal, casual conversation vs a full-on sales pitch. Ask questions about what products are performing really well for them, what types of products are struggling and if there are any gaps they are currently trying to fill. Use this as an opportunity to learn about what it takes to be successful there so you can carefully position yourself for the buyer.

Step 4: Know Your Numbers

Oftentimes Costco wants an exclusive SKU  or pack size for their stores, think larger bottles, packs of multiples etc… Sometimes this is as easy as shrink-wrapping a few products together or designing a box to put multiple smaller products into but for others it can mean developing and producing entirely new packaging. As we all know that can get pretty pricy. That’s why it’s essential to know your numbers and understand how much wiggle room you have so you don’t make promises or decisions that put you in a tough space. Also, Costco won’t work with you if they are going to be an overwhelming portion of your business. This is to protect both you and them, so make sure your brand has surpassed the $1M mark in annual sales at a minimum before approaching the club giant.

Step 5: Reach Out

Once you feel confident that you are Costco-ready, your pitch deck is good to go, and you have done your research, it’s time to meet the buyer. Reach out to a buyer for your specific category and open up a conversation. Invite them to try your product or if they are local/you are willing to travel, see if you can set up an in-person meeting to introduce them to your product. Costco buys products regionally and they do a great job of making their regional buyers available to new brands. You can find their office locations and numbers HERE. If you are intimidated by the idea of selling to Costco then we would recommend a broker. Although you don’t need one, there might not be a more nuanced retailer in the country than Costco, so having someone who has worked with them in the past can be invaluable.

Step 6: Use Your Data

This is where we come in. Of course there are many data points that might be interesting to a buyer but in our (bias but true) opinion, none matter more than predicting how your product will perform on their shelves. Buyers are under a lot of pressure, it’s big orders and with that big risk. Being able to show them that 500 people requested your product at a certain Costco store or that you have x number of requests for your product in a certain region will help move the needle.

There is no one-size-fits-all secret formula to get your product into Costco. Like many retailers it’s about timing and their needs as much as it’s about having a great product. But, we hope that this framework helps you get your foot in the door confidently and hopefully gets you that order.

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WeStock Team

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