ralph lauren polo boots for men Costco readies for Tulsa opening Thursday
The first Costco customers Thursday will be greeted by a dozen or so grizzly sized teddy bears when they walk in the wholesale club’s front doors. The bears are so popular, they have their own Facebook page.
“It’s kind of a big deal when we sell one of those,” said Greg Barnhart, the store’s general manager.
The bears don’t stand alone. They’re a few human size steps from the rows of televisions and appliances that quickly become groves of patio furniture, which eventually lead past what will be an island of seafood to a long case of meat.
A pet store’s worth of cat and dog food is stacked on top of each other. Shirts from clothing brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger line the long warehouse shelves. Hilfiger button downs wait next to a sea of blue jeans, which, like almost all the clothing and food, come in name brands as well as Kirkland Signature, Costco’s private label. Polo pocketed T shirts peek out a few shelves from the swimsuits.
The swimsuits aren’t the only option for fun in the sun. About 50 yards away, a fully inflated kiddie pool stands on its end but doesn’t even come within a story of the beaming fluorescent lights.
The traffic light out of the parking lot will be quiet for two more days. Thursday morning, a steady stream of cars will begin to flow both ways.
In wealthy south Tulsa, the store joins a Reasor’s, Wal Mart SuperCenter, Aldi, Sprouts and a SuperTarget all within a mile or two. But grocery stores aren’t the only competition.
“Everybody is our competition,” Barnhart said. It’s not unheard of for people to come 50 to 60 miles to shop at a Costco, he added.
Anita Fulsom, assistant general manager, said customers tell them that they have traveled to Wichita or Texas to get to the closest warehouse.
“Now that we’re finally going to be here, they don’t have to take a three hour drive,” she said.
Retail experts the World spoke with in January said the state’s first Costco will be a regional draw, despite the four Sam’s Clubs in the metro area.
“It could impact more than just one Sam’s,” said Scott Mushkin, head retail analyst at Wolfe Research, a New York research firm. “It could impact all three.”
Costco sells itself through an “incredible merchandising experience,” Mushkin said.
Barnhart said the merchandise is so good, it only takes a few purchases to make the $55 a year membership worth it.
That’s the store’s goal, he said: gaining people’s trust by having “the best in the marketplace.” The unconditional refund policy and high starting pay for workers are other factors in establishing that trust, Barnhart added.
Employees traveled as far as Bristow and Owasso to sign people up in recent weeks. Maxx at 61st Street and Memorial Drive for months.
Barnhart and Fulsom said they aren’t allowed to say how many people have signed up for memberships, but it has “outpaced expectations.”
This is Washington based Costco’s opening salvo in Oklahoma and could be one of the first trials for the city of Tulsa’s retail incentives program. The store could be reimbursed by up to $2 million in infrastructure improvements if it collects enough sales tax.
It’s expected to have an out sized impact on retail sales. Clay Bird of the Mayor’s Office for Economic Development said Costco sales tax could be comparable to the outlet mall that Simon Property Group plans to build in Jenks.
While an outlet mall typically has dozens of stores, Costco is just one.
When I signed up, I asked if the hot dog and coke combo was still $1.50. I was told that the CEO has said it will stay that price as long as he has the say so. You don’t need membership to buy from the food court. Especially compared to Members Mark or Sam’s Choice.