11 Ways Costco Is Changing This Year

Shoppers in masks at Costco
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Costco is one of the most beloved retailers in America. Millions of people have memberships at the warehouse club and spend countless hours each year perusing its shelves.

But nothing in life stays the same, and that includes Costco. Each year, changes — some subtle, some large — make their presence felt at the store. And 2021 is no exception.

The following are several key ways that Costco is changing this year.

1. Prices are up

Costco receipt
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Not even Costco is immune to inflation pressures. If the totals on your latest Costco receipts seemed a little higher, it may not be your imagination.

The company’s chief financial officer, Richard Galanti, said on a Sept. 23 quarterly earnings call:

“[W]e would estimate overall price inflation of the products we’re selling to be in the 3.5% to 4.5% range.”

2. Some items are available in limited quantities

Kirkland Signature bottled water at Costco
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In that recent quarterly earnings call, Galanti noted that Costco is “putting some limitations on key items.” These items include:

  • Bath tissue
  • Paper towels
  • Kirkland Signature water
  • High-demand cleaning supplies

For more details, check out “Costco Is Putting Limits on These 4 Products.”

3. The mask policy has been relaxed

Woman removing her face mask
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Like most retailers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Costco required all shoppers to wear face coverings throughout most of 2020 and into this year.

Now, you may or may not be required to wear a mask at your local club, depending on the location. As of late August, Costco’s mask policy states:

“Costco locations will follow the face mask regulations of the applicable state and local jurisdictions. In communities where COVID-19 transmission is high or substantial, per current CDC guidance, Costco strongly recommends that all members and guests wear face masks inside our locations.”

4. ‘Senior’ hours have been reduced

Senior Costco shopper
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Since the pandemic began, Costco has hosted special operating hours for shoppers age 60 and older and those with disabilities or who are immunocompromised. The idea was to keep the most vulnerable Costco shoppers a little safer as the coronavirus circulated.

The threat of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 might be starting to fade again, but the hours for seniors remain in place — to an extent. Currently, they are from 9 to 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which reflects a recent reduction from five days per week.

Only members who meet the criteria will be able to shop during these hours, and they may not bring guests during this time.

If you take advantage of Costco’s senior hours, you also might want to check out “11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco.”

5. Perishables are available through CostcoGrocery

Delivery driver picking up package
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As we recently reported, you now can order select cold and frozen foods through CostcoGrocery and get two-day delivery service.

Previously, the two-day service was limited to nonperishables. Items you now can purchase for two-day delivery include:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Deli
  • Cheese and dairy
  • Beverages

6. Food courts are back

Costco food court customers
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The food court at Costco has been a shell of its former self, thanks to the pandemic. However, this beloved aspect of Costco membership is well on its way to returning to its former glory.

All food courts are open now, though the selection varies by location and seating may be limited.

“Food courts have come back,” Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said of this portion of the company’s business on the Sept. 23 quarterly earnings call.

7. Membership fees are expected to increase

Costco Executive membership card
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In an era of inflation, perhaps it is no surprise that Costco membership fees are expected to increase soon. As we reported, Wells Fargo analysts predicted in March that Costco likely would boost its membership fees sometime within the following 18 months.

Costco last raised fees in 2017, hiking the price of membership by $10 for the Gold Star Executive package and $5 for Gold Star Everyday membership.

When Costco’s Galanti was asked about the retailer’s membership fees in May, he acknowledged that Costco historically has increased its fees every five years and that its last such increase was four years ago. But he stopped short of confirming a fee hike on the way, saying, “We’ll have to wait and see.”

In September, Galanti said that customer loyalty is a key factor that Costco considers when weighing membership fee increases. He continued:

“And certainly, the loyalty and renewal rates have been up.”

8. COVID-19 vaccines are available

COVID vaccination
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Costco pharmacies are providing COVID-19 vaccinations to those who want them. The rules are as follows:

  • All individuals age 12 and older are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S.
  • Only the vaccine from Pfizer is authorized for those ages 12 to 17.
  • The vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are authorized for those age 18 and older.

At many locations, you can simply walk in and ask for immediate vaccination. Or, you can set up an appointment. Costco notes that either way, it is best to call ahead to make sure the vaccine is available at the particular warehouse location you plan to visit.

9. More clubs are getting self-checkout

Self-checkout lines at Costco
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Costco has been working to increase the number of its warehouses that offer self-checkout lines. The company said at a January shareholder meeting that nearly two-thirds of U.S. and Canadian locations already offered self-checkout at that point and that the number is expected to rise to more than 90% this year.

10. The minimum wage is higher

Workers demand $15 minimum wage
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While labor activists are demanding a $15 minimum wage nationally, Costco is already there — and then some.

In February, the retailer boosted its workers’ minimum wage to $16 an hour. Costco CEO Craig Jelinek has noted that 89% of Costco workers also are eligible for health care benefits.

11. In-store photo centers are gone

Costco photo center
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Finally, Costco has bid adieu to its in-store photo centers.

The move — which took place this past Valentine’s Day — might have broken a few members’ hearts. But cheer up: You can still order from the Costco Photo Center website for delivery to a home or business location.

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