I had a discussion recently with someone that was asking me about Costco’s store brand, Kirkland Signature. They wanted to know how I thought it compared to name brands, as well as to other store brands. I thought it was an interesting question, interesting enough that I wanted to get everyone else’s take on it too. Personally, I feel really good about buying anything under the Kirkland Signature brand because I know it will be of high quality and offer me a tremendous value. But this isn’t the case with all, or even most, store brands. Honestly, I can’t think of many other stores that produce their own goods that I have found to be as good or better than the name brands. But why is that? Is it because Costco puts more time into making their store branded items than other retailers? Or, is it just more proof of how Costco strives to offer exceptional value to its consumers?
We’ve all read some of the many, many articles in the Costco Connection about various Kirkland Signature items, I’m sure. But there was one not too long ago, in the October 2009 issue that talks all about the Kirkland Signature brand and why they started it 15 years ago, and how they keep it so great no matter what the product. The big thing is that the Kirkland Signature products must be equal to or higher quality than the name brands, while still offering a savings to Costco members. They originally created the brand, according to Jim Sinegal, to have some control over the marketplace with regards to quality and pricing, as well as increase the sales volume in their stores by offering items with a wide appeal. Having their own brand also lets them control packaging and achieve what he terms pallet efficiencies. For instance, changing the shape of the cashew nut container from round to square meant that they could fit 432 jars on a pallet, instead of 288, which saves over 600 truckloads per year. From nuts to men’s dress shirts to cookware or laundry detergent, they put a lot of time, effort, and research into getting the right components and processes to make their products the best they can be, while still providing an amazing deal for shoppers.
My favorite Kirkland Signature product is probably the men’s dress shirts; Dave has several of these. They are most definitely of the same high quality as the shirts you’d find in a Nordstrom (pardon me for my shocking misspelling and calling it ‘Nordstrom’s') from designers, only they don’t have the $70.00 or $80.00 price tag. I think the last time we bought one it was under $20.00. And these are really nice shirts! They have a nice weight to them (the white shirt isn’t practically see-through like a lot of cheap dress shirts), they have unbreakable buttons that are well stitched to the shirt so that they don’t fall off in the wash, they are stain resistant so most things just bead up and are repelled, plus they are wrinkle resistant (yes, NO IRONING) for a crisp look all day long. The wrinkle and stain resistance isn’t something you always find in a designer label dress shirt either, a lot of times you end up having to iron iron iron (or send to the dry cleaners, as I do) because they look like hell if you just pull them out of the dryer. And honestly, Dave has had a number of ‘good’ shirts that we bought at high prices and the buttons pop off or break so quickly; that’s not quality, that’s just annoying. But the important thing is that Dave likes these shirts and the way they fit, plus they look nice on, and stay looking nice over the whole day too. They wrote about the shirts in the June 2006 issue of the Costco Connection and discussed how they can keep the quality high but the price so low. One of the key ways is by using just one supplier that grows, harvests, weaves and dyes the cotton used in the shirts. It’s all about manufacturing efficiency, that and selling an awful lot of them through Costco and Costco.com. Right now, you can get a 2-pack of these shirts at Costco.com for $39.99 (including shipping). Which is just a really amazing deal to me. I’m hoping we’ll still be able to get these in London. But, if I were getting picky, I’d have to say it would be nice if they would have a few more color options. While white and blue are good standard colors maybe they could throw in a nice light gray or a darker blue even, just for a little variety.
While that is my favorite Kirkland Signature because it truly represents an unbelievable mix of quality and value, there are plenty of other Kirkland Signature products that I like and buy on a regular basis too. Such as: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, shampoo and conditioner, bath towels, men’s dress shirts and jeans, laundry products, batteries, skin care (co-branded with Borghese), paper towels, spices, dried blueberries, juices, nuts, over the counter medications like aspirin and allergy pills, butter, yogurt, spiral sliced ham, frozen shrimp, super premium vanilla ice cream, shortbread cookies (co-branded with Walker’s), and the delicious European cookies with Belgian chocolate. I’m not sure if the items in the bakery and deli area should count, but as you know I love plenty of those items too, like the pizza and cookies. My mom swears that the coffee is delicious but we don’t drink coffee, so I’ll have to take her word for it. And while I don’t have a baby, I have heard that the Kirkland Signature baby wipes and diapers just can’t be beat. But why don’t they have some women’s clothing from the Kirkland Signature line? Though, I do seem to recall just before we left Austin I had started to see women’s button down shirts too and I believe they have a cashmere sweater they sell in the wintertime, as well.
In any case, I buy a lot of Kirkland Signature stuff, as you can tell, and have found it all to be every bit as good as, and in most cases better than, the name brands. I really appreciate all the time and effort that goes into making such great products because I can see a benefit every time I take a bite or use one of the Kirkland Signature products.
So, what’s your favorite Kirkland Signature product and how do you think it compares to other store brands and name brands?