Warehouse Clubs & Superstores
Companies in this industry operate membership retail stores that sell groceries, health and beauty items, electronics, and other merchandise; the majority of items are sold in large quantities. Major companies include Sam's Club (Wal-Mart); Costco Wholesale; BJ's Wholesale Club; and Meijer (all based in the US), as well as Carrefour (France), Metro (Germany), and Tesco (UK).
The Asia/Pacific region, with its rising middle-class populations, is a magnet for global retailers in search of growth. Four Asian markets (China, India, the Philippines, and Vietnam) boast GDP growth in excess of 5%. Of about 800 Sam's Club stores worldwide, about 19 are in China. Costco operates an online store with China's Alibaba. China's retail market surpassed that of the US in 2016, with total sales of nearly $4.9 trillion compared with about $4.8 trillion in the US, according to eMarketer.
The US warehouse club and superstore industry includes about a dozen companies with about 5,500 stores and combined annual revenue of about $475 billion.
Demographics and small business growth drive demand, and spending in warehouse clubs generally resists economic cycles. The profitability of individual companies depends on high volume sales, low-cost purchasing, and efficient distribution. Large chains dominate the market due to advantages in purchasing, distribution, and finance. The US industry is highly concentrated: the top four companies account for more than 90% of revenue.
Warehouse clubs differ from superstores by requiring a membership to shop. Superstores typically offer a wide range of products, while warehouse clubs offer a limited selection. Both types of retailers sell products across many categories including food, and both compete with grocery stores, mass merchandisers, department stores, drugstores, specialty retailers, and wholesalers. Some retailers, such as Wal-Mart, operate warehouse and superstores as well as traditional discount stores.
Amazon and Amazon Prime (the online retailer's $99 per year 2-day shipping service) and newer online players like Boxed.com represent a growing threat to warehouse clubs and superstores. The proportion of Costco members who are also Amazon Prime members increased from about 50% in 2015 to 62% in 2018, according to research from UBS. By at least one measure, Amazon Prime is the largest retail membership club in the US, with an estimated penetration of 44% of US households versus an estimated 32% for Costco.
Products, Operations & Technology
Major products sold by warehouse clubs are groceries; drug, health, and beauty aids; prescription medicine; and electronics. Most products are available
Sales & Marketing
Finance & Regulation
Regional & International Issues
Also includes the following chapters:
Quarterly Industry Update
Trends and Opportunities
Call Preparation Questions
Glossary of Acronyms