Companies in this industry operate membership retail stores that sell groceries, health and beauty items, electronics, and other merchandise; the majority of items are sold in large quantities. Major companies include Sam's Club (Wal-Mart); Costco Wholesale; BJ's Wholesale Club; and Meijer (all based in the US). PriceSmart, a US-based company, owns and operates warehouse clubs in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.
The US warehouse club and superstore industry includes about a dozen companies with about 5,000 stores and combined annual revenue of about $440 billion.
Demographics and small business growth drive demand, and spending in warehouse clubs generally resists economic cycles. The profitability of individual companies depends on high volume sales, low-cost purchasing, and efficient distribution. Large chains dominate the market due to advantages in purchasing, distribution, and finance. The US industry is highly concentrated: the top four companies account for more than 90% of revenue.
Warehouse clubs differ from superstores by requiring a membership to shop. Superstores typically offer a wide range of products, while warehouse clubs offer a limited selection. Both types of retailers sell products across many categories including food, and both compete with grocery stores, mass merchandisers, department stores, drugstores, specialty retailers, and wholesalers. Some retailers, such as Wal-Mart, operate warehouse and superstores as well as traditional discount stores.
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Major products sold by warehouse clubs are groceries; drug, health, and beauty aids; prescription medicine; and electronics. Most products are...