Costco Wholesale may be grappling with lower gas prices that are eating into its sales growth, but the bulk retailer still manages to outperform Sam’s Club every quarter. Costco, which benefits from having stores in more affluent areas than Sam’s does, has been looking to pad its lead by improving its merchandise, particularly fresh food, a key category for getting shoppers into stores. And given how Costco is an e-commerce laggard compared to rivals in terms of offering services like store pickup of online orders, finding ways to promote shopper traffic are essential. Some initiatives have included on-site bread baking at some stores. And its $15 billion-a-year Kirkland store brand is a cash cow that is only growing in popularity. Still, Costco will have to deal with a newly aggressive Sam’s Club which has made no secret of its intention to go higher end, aiming squarely at Costco’s customers.
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