I just spent two days trolling the high-end shops of Manhattan. And while I love the attention, and the attention to detail, one experiences while swaggering through the luxury boutiques of Fendi, Versace, Vuitton, Cartier, Pucci, Gucci, Ferragamo and the like on 5th Avenue, I must admit that the element of Surprise is somewhat lacking.
The king--and by a wide margin--of Surprise retailing in North America is yet another only-one-name-needed shopping emporium, but found far, far away from the main drags of downtown:
Yup, they may seem like giant grey warehouses, but when it comes to Surprise, Costco can outshock any tony designer store. Surprise isn't just a strategy at Costco; it's the company's DNA. This taken from a crisp little piece by Matthew Boyle in the most recent Fortune Magazine:
"While Wal-Mart stands for low prices, and Target embodies cheap chic, Costco is a retail treasure hunt."
Once more with increased emphasis:
A RETAIL TREASURE HUNT!
Holy Jeez, can it be described any better than that? Think about it--a different experience, new excitement every time you're at the store. No wonder, the article goes on to say, that...
"Costco's card-carrying legions come in droves, waiting anxiously in fancy foreign cars on Saturday mornings for the store to open. Carts in hand, they display a fervor not usually seen outside of houses of worship."
But then Boyle really nails it:
"Why? Because we all love a bargain."
What better embodiment of a retail Surprise than a bargain? Your expectations are always exceeded. You are counting on X, but are served up X%-off. And Costco does this day after day after day after day. New stuff. At wild prices. No consistency except Surprise. No wonder they are second only to Best Buy in annual sales per square foot (and lemme tell you, Costco has to sell quite a few jars of mayo to equal one of Best Buy's flat screen purchases).
I'm a big shopper, but this has really opened up my eyes and blown a breeze of menthol into 'em. Think about what I said before: the Surprise of bagging a bargain works big time for you, AND continues to live long after as you rave about it to all your friends ("You'll NEVER guess how much I paid for this! And where I got it!). You never hear people bragging about paying full retail price (unless they are pompous asses who have more dollars than sense).
This ain't about shopping. It's about addiction. Surprise is a concept that keeps on demanding.
And Costco is a concept that keeps on delivering. Well done, guys.