[This is a guest post from BB, an American that has been living in Australia for the last 10 years. She’s got a great perspective on how Australians are going to respond to the new Costco opening Monday.]
The media here is all about whether Australians are going to buy into such an “American” concept. A lot of the comments I see on the Internet are pretty snarky and dismissive. There is a cultural phenomenon here called “Tall Poppy Syndrome”: It’s a tendency to downplay successful people/businesses or a desire to see them fail. Of course, not everyone feels that way, but occasionally it rears its ugly head. It can be quite an unfortunate aspect of my adopted country! On the other hand, most people I’ve talked to in real life are fairly neutral on the idea of Costco. Ultimately, if its going to save them money and offer quality, they’ll go for it. The proof will be in the pudding, so to speak.
I have an “inside source” from a social networking site who works at Costco (he’s “just” a floor employee, but he’s an Aussie who didn’t have previous experience with Costco so it’s an interesting perspective). He doesn’t share much information, but says they just put the price labels up on the shelves and he was stunned! He is also really amazed about the variety of new products and says that the local products are beautifully packaged exclusively for Costco, and local producers have developed new varieties of existing products. This is really exciting!
Australia is a small market: around 20 million people in the whole country which has a land mass nearly as big as the continental US. As a result, we miss out on the variety available in the US. When I first moved to Australia 10 years ago, one of my earliest memories is looking at salad dressing at the supermarket and literally going around the corner “looking for the rest of it”. Things have improved in the last decade but it will still be nice to see a few new things, perhaps even on a weekly basis!
My husband and I were talking about it last night in bed (how romantic!) and he was wondering if it’s going to be busy on the first day. I’m thinking not. For one thing, they open on a Monday, which is not a big shopping day here at all. More importantly, right now its mainly the American expat community who are excited, but I think once the word gets out it will really take off here. People go nuts for a shop called “Aldi” which is a bit like a poor man’s mini Costco. It’s maybe a quarter of the size of a small supermarket in the US. They stock mostly their own store brands (what Aussies like to call “home brand”). In my opinion, the price and the quality of their products is comparable to the price and quality of home brands in the major supermarkets. If Aussies love Aldi, then Costco is going to blow them away!