A month after opening, and the Costco madness continues

A month after its grand opening, the Costco madness continues with daily lines to enter the Auckland storeand some high-demand items sell out hours before the store closes.

On Monday, lines had formed again in the Costco parking lot, with security personnel staggering the entry of shoppers onto escalators to take them to the store.

Long lines had also formed again at the counters where shoppers collected $60 membership cards, which bought them the right to shop in the store.

The nearly 147,000 members of the Costco NZ Westgate Community Facebook page have been swapping tips on the best times to go to the store, but going later in the evening on workdays can mean finding meat cooler gaps and the bakery where the most popular items should be.

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Last Wednesday, just before 8 p.m., 30 minutes before the store closed, there was such a demand for hot dogs and pizzas at the food court that a worker with a megaphone was on duty to maintain the ‘order and shout out the number of orders that were ready for hungry buyers.

The bakery was still operating, but some shelves were empty and there were thin pickings where Costco’s extra-large muffin trays should have been.

Among the sold out items were 3kg trays of premium ground beef, 2.3kg trays of chicken breasts and leg of lamb.

Where's the lamb, Costco?  Demand remains so high at Costco that someone trying to beat the crowds by going later on a weeknight may find some things they want are sold out.

ROB STOCK / Stuff

Where’s the lamb, Costco? Demand remains so high at Costco that someone trying to beat the crowds by going later on a weeknight may find some things they want are sold out.

The store’s produce section, where Costco sells large trays, bags and packs of produce, had also been reworked and some sections were nearly empty.

Social media has spurred demand for certain products, including Downey scent beads, which people use to scent their laundry. They had sold out at 1:30 p.m. Monday.

Costco Country Manager Patrick Noone said warehouse and purchasing staff were working hard to keep up with demand.

“Our high membership numbers and daily foot traffic tell us that our products and prices are resonating with the people of Auckland,” he said.

At Costco on Wednesday night, there was such a demand for hot dogs and pizza that a Costco staff member with a megaphone was needed to call when orders were ready.

ROB STOCK / Stuff

At Costco on Wednesday night, there was such a demand for hot dogs and pizza that a Costco staff member with a megaphone was needed to call when orders were ready.

Retail expert Chris Wilkinson of First Retail Group did not believe the daily queues at Costco were a symptom of dissatisfaction with prices in the Countdown and Foodstuffs supermarket duopoly.

“New Zealand consumers are very absorbed by the phenomenon. We tend to be very enthusiastic and embrace new concepts,” he said. “It’s just a total fascination with what’s new in New Zealand.”

The absence of wanted articles at times began to attract comments online.

Customer Marcia Prince posted on Facebook: “I went back yesterday around 11:00 to get in, but all the chicken fridges were empty.

Customer Brenna Graham posted in response to the high demand for rotisserie chickens: “Chickens – they sell out faster than they can cook them. There are only so many dishes they can cook at once, and they can’t pre-cook too many as they can only stay warm for a short time.

At 1:30 p.m. Monday, a long line of shoppers lined up to get roast chickens.

Costco's bakery shelves offered fine pickings at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.  Behind the shoppers line up for roast chickens.

ROB STOCK / Stuff

Costco’s bakery shelves offered fine pickings at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Behind the shoppers line up for roast chickens.

Prince was disappointed that some Halloween animatronics were sold out.

“Very low stock, out of many items, all the 10 foot witches and the headless horsemen sold out, only Halloween items still available were the 2 little skeleton scarecrows and the tiny Disney haunted house”, she said.

Even before it opened, Noone warned that Costco’s products were rotating quickly and items on sale one day might not be available the next.

It was part of Costco treasure hunt strategybut he also had a seasonal strategy through consumer festivals and holiday seasons throughout the year.

Speculation on the fan website about the cheapest time to leave has settled at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

Costco's struggle to keep bays full Wednesday night was evident in the vegetable cold store.

ROB STOCK / Stuff

Costco’s struggle to keep bays full Wednesday night was evident in the vegetable cold store.

Costco opened on October 28with a few eager shoppers camping overnight to be the first to enter the store.

Costco is a bulk retailer, selling groceries in sizes larger than those usually available in supermarkets. To shop there, people must buy a Costco membership for $60 a year.

Costco intended to open stores in christchurch, Wellington and another store in Auckland. It could also one day open stores in small regional towns like Hamilton and Dunedin.

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