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Difference Between Costco and Walmart

Walmart and Costco are giants in the retail industry, but they have different business models and offerings. Both retail giants sell a wide variety of products, including food, clothing, furniture, electronics, home improvement, etc. But, which is better, Walmart or Costco? Here’s a breakdown of the differing business models and offerings between Walmart and Costco. Let’s dive in!


Costco is an American multinational corporation that operates a chain of membership-only warehouse clubs. It offers a unique shopping experience and is known for its warehouse-style stores. Members pay an annual fee for access to exclusive deals and discounts on a wide array of products, ranging from groceries and electronics to clothing and home goods.

As of 2023, Costco is the world’s second-largest retailer after Walmart, and the fifth-largest retailer in the United States. Headquartered in Issaquah, Washington, it was founded by James Sinegal and Jeffrey Brotman in 1983.


Walmart is an American multinational retail corporation that operates a chain of hypermarkets, discount department stores, and grocery stores. It is headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas. Founded by Sam Walton in 1962, it became the world’s largest retailer by revenue in 2013 and remains so today. It operates on a diverse scale, encompassing both brick-and-mortar superstores and a significant online presence.

Known for its “Everyday Low Prices” strategy, Walmart focuses on offering a broad range of products at competitive rates. The superstore format includes groceries, electronics, apparel, household items, and more, making it a one-stop-shop for various consumer needs.

Difference between Costco and Walmart

Business Model

Costco is a membership-based warehouse club. This means members pay an annual fee for access to bulk-sized products at lower prices and exclusive deals. It sells a smaller variety of products, but it sells them in bulk at lower prices. This means that you have to buy more of something at Costco, but you will save money in the long run.

Walmart, on the other hand, is a traditional retailer that is open to all shoppers. It makes profits primarily from high-volume sales and razor-thin margins on individual items. Walmart focuses on offering a broad range of products at competitive rates without any membership fee.

Product Offering

Costco is recognized for its private-label products, known as Kirkland Signature, which often stand out for their quality and affordability. It emphasizes bulk purchasing, encouraging customers to buy in larger quantities to benefit from cost savings per unit.

Walmart has a vast selection of national brands, private labels, and lower-priced generic options, with a wider variety of individual item sizes. It follows an “Everyday Low Prices” strategy, offering competitive rates across a broad range of products without the need for bulk buying.

Store Format

Costco has a warehouse-style layout with wide aisles and high ceilings, with a focus on simplicity and efficiency in layout, providing a no-frills shopping experience. They focus on customer satisfaction and loyalty and offer a generous return policy, free samples, and a treasure hunt atmosphere.

Walmart, on the contrary, has a more traditional grocery store layout. It operates as superstores with a diverse range of products, offering a comprehensive shopping experience with an emphasis on convenience. They focus on efficiency and low prices, a smaller staff-to-customer ratio, self-checkout options, and a more utilitarian shopping experience.

Costco vs. Walmart: Comparison Chart


Both Walmart and Costco are giants in the retail industry, but they have different business models. Walmart is a traditional retailer that aims to push its prices down. Costco, on the other hand, is a membership-based warehouse club. It sells a smaller variety of products, but it sells them in bulk at lower prices. The choice ultimately depends on your needs. If you are looking for the lowest possible prices, then Walmart is the way to go. But if you are looking for high-quality products and are willing to buy in bulk, then Costco is a better option.


What is the difference between Costco and Walmart business model?

Costco operates on a membership-based model, while Walmart is a traditional retailer that is open to all shoppers.

Is Costco cheaper than Walmart in Canada?

Costco is generally cheaper for bulk items, especially its Kirkland Signature brand. However, it can be more expensive for non-bulk items.

Why is Costco so much cheaper?

Costco is generally cheaper for the following reasons:

  • Bulk buying: Lower per-unit cost from suppliers due to larger orders. 
  • Membership fees: Generate additional revenue, allowing for lower margins on products. 
  • Limited SKUs: Fewer product choices lead to better efficiency and less overhead. 
  • Kirkland Signature brand: High-quality private label products offer competitive prices.

Why is Walmart a competitor of Costco?

While Costco operates on a membership-based model with an emphasis on bulk purchasing and a streamlined product selection, Walmart follows an open-access approach, catering to a diverse customer base with its superstore format and “Everyday Low Prices” strategy.

What is the competitive advantage of Costco over Walmart?

While both retailers focus on affordability, Costco’s streamlined approach, limited product selection, and emphasis on private-label brands contribute to lower operating costs. This enables them to provide quality products at competitive prices.

What makes Costco different from other stores?

Costco stands out for its membership-based model, bulk purchasing focus, and streamlined product selection. Its warehouse-style stores, private-label brand (Kirkland Signature), and commitment to value contribute to a unique shopping experience compared to other retailers.

Is Costco Canada worth it?

It depends on individual shopping habits and preferences. The membership fee may be justified by the potential savings on bulk purchases and exclusive deals, particularly if one values Costco’s product selection and pricing model.

Who is bigger, Walmart or Costco?

Walmart is generally larger than Costco in terms of revenue, store count, and global presence. Walmart’s extensive network of superstores, diverse product offerings, and global reach make it one of the largest retailers globally.

Is Costco more successful than Walmart?

Walmart dominates in global reach and overall revenue, while Costco leads in profitability, customer satisfaction, and brand loyalty.

Why do people prefer Costco?

People often prefer Costco for its value-driven approach, bulk purchasing options, quality private-label products, and membership perks, including exclusive deals.

What is the most popular product sold at Costco?

Items like Kirkland Signature products, rotisserie chicken, toilet papers, and electronics often stand out as customer favorites.

What is so special about Costco?

Costco’s special attributes include its membership-based model, bulk purchasing discounts, private-label products, and a straightforward shopping experience.

What are the cons of Costco?

Following are some cons of Costco:

  • Membership fees can be a barrier for some. 
  • Bulk quantities may not suit small households or infrequent shoppers. 
  • Limited product selection compared to traditional supermarkets. 
  • Potential for waste if bulk items expire before consumption.

How to get Costco membership free?

While Costco does not typically offer free memberships, there may be occasional promotions or trials. Additionally, certain credit cards or memberships may include Costco benefits. It’s advisable to check Costco’s official website or inquire about ongoing promotions.

Can I shop at Costco without a membership?

In most cases, a membership is required to shop at Costco. However, some locations allow non-members to purchase certain items or use specific services, like the pharmacy or optical services, without a membership.

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References :

[0]Page, Vanessa. “Walmart Will Never Be Costco.” Investopedia, 31 Jan. 2023, www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/121715/walmart-will-never-be-costco.asp.

[1]Klein, Jesse. “Costco and Walmart: A tale of two supply chains.” GreenBiz, 11 Apr. 2022, www.greenbiz.com/article/costco-and-walmart-tale-two-supply-chains.

[2]Perry, Alex. “5 Major Differences Between Costco and Walmart Right Now.” Eat This Not That, 10 Apr. 2022, www.eatthis.com/news-differences-between-costco-walmart/.

[3]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MAF293I-taI-taiwan-08-december-2023-inside-of-the-costco-store-in-taiwan/

[4]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MAEYFv9yWCU-empty-shelves-in-the-supermarket-due-to-covid19-panic-buying/

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