SocietyAugust 26, 2022

A sneak peek inside New Zealand’s first Costco


Auckland’s Costco is nearly ready to open. But is Auckland ready for Costco? Stewart Sowman-Lund takes a tour.

It’s not often I lug myself out to the far reaches of West Auckland, but a preview trip around the brand new Costco store was worth the 30 minute commute. 

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern was yesterday invited for a sneak peek of the nearly completed Westgate warehouse. And that meant the media, including The Spinoff, were allowed to tag along. 

The tour was timed with this week’s announcement that the government will be cracking down on the supermarket duopoly by forcing them to open their wholesale doors. Costco, of course, was already well and truly in the local market by the time of that announcement. But with its promise of cheaper prices comes a challenge to the local grocery market to try and keep up.

Jacinda Ardern greets Costco staff (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

The prime minister was guided around the store by Patrick Noone, the managing director of Costco Australia and New Zealand. He looked thrilled to be playing tour guide to the PM. Ardern looked impressed too. At one point she let slip that the deli was what she was looking forward to the most – specifically the buffalo wings. 

Ardern also appeared interested in a pallet stacked with gumboots. “How much will you be retailing these for?” she queried, anticipating major demand from New Zealanders.

Much of yesterday’s visit was for the prime minister to be shown the local goods that Costco will be stocking. A table of berries, potatoes and eggs – the weirdest grazing table I’ve ever encountered – was set up in the store. There was also a selection of impressive looking cakes and pastries, although I was too scared to try one because of all the news cameras pointed at the prime minister. Nobody wants to be seen eating on the 6pm news. I did, thankfully, sample some delicious blueberry juice, safely off-camera.

At one point the visit felt a little bit like a royal tour, with Ardern greeting lines of smiling Costco employees, shaking hands and posing for selfies. An attempt to have the prime minister pictured next to a giant Costco-emblazoned bear, however, failed.

As her guided tour wrapped up, Ardern assured Costco staff that she’ll be back. Once I get my subscription sorted, I will be too.

The big Costco bear – and Jacinda Ardern (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

But enough about my visit. I went into yesterday’s visit with a number of important questions that I assume you’ll have to. So here’s the lowdown on New Zealand’s first Costco store.

So, just how big is it?

It’s big. In fact, Costco’s giant warehouse is about 14,740 square metres. It’s a bit different to a normal supermarket in that there are no shelves. When you enter the Westgate store you’re greeted by rows upon rows of pallets, already packed with goods. Once opened, only paying members will be allowed to step foot into the store (an annual subscription costs $60).

Can you shop there yet?

Not quite. We don’t even have an opening date yet, but it must be close. Most of the store looked ready, aside from empty fridges waiting for fresh goods.

I can’t let you know how cheap things are…

As someone who has never shopped at a Costco anywhere in the world, I was most excited for a cheeky preview of the prices. Sadly, price labels were missing, but it’s anticipated (or at least hoped) that Costco’s pricing will make a significant splash in the local market.

But I was able to spy some of the goods that will be on offer 

There were piles of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger underwear next to rows of giant Lego kits. There were freezers packed with cookie dough and rows of oil bottles bigger than my head. Industrial fridges will soon be home to more local produce.

Can you get your tyre changed at Costco?

Yup. It’s not just food and household goods that Costco has on offer. It’ll also be home to an optometrist, a pharmacy and a range of tyres. It’s positioning itself as, to use a cliche, a one-stop shop.

Except… there’s no booze

As the new store is within the West Auckland trust zone, it won’t be able to sell any alcohol. I spotted some Jack Daniel’s BBQ sauce, but that’s it. Overseas Costco stores are home to a wide range of booze and with Costco planning a nationwide expansion over the next few years, I expect future stores outside West Auckland will have that range too.

But there will be hotdogs

Yes, Costco sells a lot of fresh food – and that means its famous hotdogs, on par with Ikea’s meatballs when it comes to iconic food court snacks, will be sold here. 

Jacinda Ardern and Costco’s staff (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)
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