Costco—the land of free samples, beige patio furniture, and jars of kimchi as big as your head—has now also become a fast fashion destination. As malls die and once beloved chains start to close, the fashion business at Costco has gone up about 9 percent every year for the last four years, according to a new report from Fast Company.
There could be a number of reasons for this: Brands like Marmot, Tory Burch, Nike, and Birkenstock push off unsold merchandise to the wholesale retailer, where it is then sold at severely discounted rates. There is also Costco’s in-house fashion line, Kirkland, which I can attest makes cute socks and pajamas; like any good-natured millennial, I used to stick up my nose at the line, but now every time I go home and accompany my mom on a Costco run, I am tempted to pick up a new 12-pack of underwear.
If you’re already shopping at Costco, why wouldn’t you peruse the clothing section? There’s a lot of brand loyalty there, and the in-store shopping experience is pretty seamless. The appeal of Costco is obvious: We love Amazon because it’s an online everything store; Costco is a real-life everything store with free bulgogi beef samples and a food court with excellent hot dogs, literally the two things I wish Amazon had.
But there’s an obvious downside. “Costco is effectively supporting the fast-fashion business model”—which is harmful to workers and the environment for a number of reasons—“by creating a secondary market where it can sell off unwanted goods at low prices,” Fast Company writes. Still I dream of a Costco membership, where I can buy champagne in bulk and consider buying new running shoes for a fraction of the price I’d normally pay. If that market could reorient itself so my love of Costco doesn’t keep destroying the planet, that’d be great.