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All Contents © 2020The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Bob Niedt, Online Editor
| October 29, 2018
American shoppers are going gray. Chalk it up to aging baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964. There are roughly 74 million of them alive today, still outpacing millennials, with the first wave of boomers already entering retirement. And boomers like to shop. In particular, they like to shop at Costco. More older shoppers prefer the warehouse club over popular retailers such as Walmart and Target, and boomers are more likely than millennials to renew their Costco memberships.
So it makes perfect sense that Costco caters to retirees and near-retirees, despite the stereotype that it only sells bulk items that are too much for an empty nest. As a boomer and regular Costco shopper, I already knew this from personal experience, but recent research trips to my local warehouse clubs revealed even more deals aimed at the mature market that I hadn’t noticed before. Here are 15 things I found that uniquely appeal to retirees. Check them out.
A couple of year ago I first explained “Why I Bought My Prescription Glasses at Costco,” and since then I bought another pair at Costco and had lenses replaced in older frames. Why Costco? Put simply, I found that the warehouse club offered the best product and service at the best price, especially compared to the retail eyewear outlets conveniently tucked inside your eye doctor’s office.
The ultimate cost of your eyeglasses (or contacts) from Costco depends, of course, on the frames and lenses you choose, but that goes for any retailer. I often see a recurring deal at Costco for $30 off a second pair of glasses after paying the full ride on your first pair. And though you may be tempted to use online eyeglass services, remember fit is crucial. And try as it might, the Internet isn’t going to fit you and adjust your frames. You can also get an eye exam at Costco, done by a licensed optometrist.
Looking for readers and sunglasses? Costco sells Foster Grant reading glasses in packages of three for less than $20, and non-prescription Kirkland Signature polarized and anti-reflective sunglasses for $24.99 a pair.
As many athletically inclined retirees might recall, Costco's highly lauded Kirkland Signature golf balls first hit the market in 2016 -- and promptly sold out nationwide. At the time, the balls were being compared to the highly regarded Titleist Pro V1. Yet, a Costco-branded golf ball retailed for 60% less than a Titleist. Kirkland Signature golf balls are back on Costco shelves just as the snowbirds are flocking south and just in time for the holidays. We can't guarantee your game will improve, but we can guarantee you'll save a few bucks.
Retirement also means more time for tennis. Costco serves a good deal on Penn Championship Extra Duty tennis balls. A case of 60 balls (20 cans) was selling for $38.99, or about 65 cents per ball. Target offered a 4-can pack of the same Penn tennis balls for $8.69, or more than 74 cents per ball. At Walmart, a 6-can pack ran $21.99, or $1.22 per ball. Not even Dick's Sporting Goods could top Costo's price. The specialty retailer was selling a case of 36 Penn balls (12 cans) for $24.99, or just over 69 cents per ball.
At some point we all have to think about the unthinkable. Costco’s right there with you as a cheaper alternative to buying a casket through a funeral home. Costco members can go online to purchase a casket for delivery. Standard shipping is included in the online price, but expedited shipping is also available. The shipping address and the billing address must be in one of the 38 states (plus the District of Columbia) approved for casket sales. The Federal Trade Commission requires funeral homes to accept any casket purchased from an outside source. Casket prices at Costco.com range from $900 to $1,350; urns range from $90 to $150.
Oh, and Costco also sells urns for pet cremation remains. The Near & Dear Pet Memorials Classic Paws urns are $40.
Now that you have more free time on your hands, why not hit the road? Or, rather, the ocean. The warehouse club has its own online travel service, Costco Travel, with plenty of packages available. When we last priced out cruises over the summer, Costco was offering an 11-night Caribbean cruise, leaving port at Bayonne, N.J., Dec. 10, with stops at several island ports including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Rates were around $1,200 per person for a balcony stateroom on Royal Caribbean International’s Anthem of the Seas. The package comes with extras including a Costco cash card. A similar Caribbean cruise on Carnival started at $1,500, and a shorter Disney cruise easily doubled Costco’s price.
Willing to book last minute? The same Costco 11-night Caribbean cruise is now priced at $999 per person for a balcony stateroom; inside staterooms are going for $689 per person.
You booked your vacay through Costco Travel, but have you checked your passport? Like mine, it may have expired. It’s time to apply for a new one.
Stop by the one-hour photo shop inside Costco, present your Costco membership card to the clerk, pay $4.99 for four headshots compliant with U.S. passport requirements, and you’re in. The clerk will take your picture with a DSLR camera, show it to you for your approval, and have it printed and good to go in about 10 minutes. The Post Office charges $15 for two passport photos.
Cruise purchased? Check. Updated passport? Check. Now what? Time to pack, and whoa, your luggage is ancient. Cruise on over to Costco for a suitcase upgrade.
We found a two-piece Samsonite Bantam XLT hardside luggage set selling for $169.99. That same set was selling on eBay for $199.54.
Many boomers who had chickenpox as a kid are being encouraged to get a new shingles shot, particularly the two-shot Shingrix vaccine because of its effectiveness. When I agreed to it at my recent physical, my doctor wrote a prescription. Enter Costco, which has an in-store pharmacy where you can get the shingles shot (or shots), as well as other immunizations including flu shots that are recommended for older folks. For people paying out of pocket, Consumer Reports found that vaccinations cost less at Costco than at drug stores such as CVS or Walgreens.
One drawback: Costco pharmacies (at least the two near me in Northern Virginia) are closed on Sundays.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, retirees spend 73% more on reading materials than average households. If you’re one of those retirees looking at retirement as a time to finally tackle your reading list, Costco can help you do it for less. Books of all kinds are located at the center of the store. I made a beeline for the bestseller section and found the hardcover edition of “The President is Missing,” by former President Bill Clinton and best-selling author James Patterson, selling for $16.99. The thriller was going for $21 at a nearby Target and for $17.99 on Amazon.com (new, with free Prime shipping). “Lincoln’s Last Trial,” by Dan Abrams and David Fisher, was selling for $14.99 at Costco versus $16.19 on Amazon.
And, of course, taking home a copy from Costco means you can start turning pages immediately, instead of waiting two days for your Amazon package to arrive.
All those rock concerts. All those portable listening devices, from Walkmans to iPods. Many boomers are paying the price with hearing loss -- and boomers who already turned 65 know that Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids, which can run as much as $3,000 per ear.
Costco’s made some assertive moves into the business of selling and servicing hearing aids, offering an array of devices at reasonable prices. Free hearing tests are even conducted in-store at Costco Hearing Aid Centers. Costco works with four major suppliers of hearing aids, and also carries its own store brand. The Kirkland Signature 8.0 Premium Digital Hearing Instruments Kit costs $1,600 and includes a pair of hearing aids (available in 10 different colors). And, of course, you’ll need batteries: A package of 48 Kirkland Signature hearing aid batteries is $8.49. To compare, a package of 60 hearing aid batteries was selling for $15.30 on Amazon.
We hear it from retirees all the time: "I'm busier now than when I was working full time." True as that may be, you still can have time on your hands. Or wrists. You can find decent watches at clock-stopping prices at Costco.
For example, we spotted a Citizen Chandler men's eco-drive watch for $159.99. The same watch was being sold at Kohl's for $195. Not uptown enough for you? Costco also has Breitling Transocean watches selling in the range of $5,699.99 to $6,899.99.
Beyond hearing aids, Costco is ever-increasingly entering a retail sector once an exclusive of medical supply stores and standalone pharmacies: Selling rolling walkers, canes, reachers, wheelchairs and nonslip shower chairs, along with adult briefs for incontinence as well as medical alert systems. There’s even a $4,400 Access Tubs wheelchair accessible slide-in tub with air bubble massage.
Note, however, that few of these items are carried in-store, so place orders online. The good news: Shipping costs are included for most of the aging-related medical equipment we saw on Costco.com.
At its core, Costco is still a grocery store, albeit a big one with big packages that also stocks lots of non-grocery stuff. For those days when you just need to stock up on kitchen and household staples without the crowds and without the distraction of row upon row of big-screen TVs, Costco offers the option of having groceries delivered to your doorstep.
Here’s how it works: Have nonperishable groceries and household supplies delivered for free within two days for orders over $75 placed on Costco.com. This service isn’t available in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. In a hurry? In most metropolitan areas, you can get free same-day delivery on grocery orders of $35 or more, including perishable items. You must be home to receive delivery, which is provided for Costco by Instacart, a service that handles delivery for multiple retailers (from CVS to Safeway). To avoid additional delivery fees, place your order through Costco.com.
There are always long lines at the Costco hot-food stand, especially during the lunch and dinner hours. The food is inexpensive: An all-beef hot dog with a 20-ounce soda and refills goes for $1.50. An 18-inch whole pizza is $9.95. Cheeseburgers are $4.99. And for dessert, a twisted churro, for a buck.
If this state fair menu doesn’t please your palate, or waistline, Costco recently started replacing some items with healthier fare. The initial reaction has been less than kind. Loyalists immediately took to Twitter to express their outrage after Costco pulled the Polish hot dog from the menu in favor of an acai bowl.
Of course “dining at Costco” doesn’t only mean eating at the food court. The warehouse club is swimming in food-demo stands, where employees cook up small bites for shoppers. Still hungry? If the first sample wasn’t filling enough, you can always circle back and wait your turn again…and again…and again. By the time you check out, you’ve had a free meal.
Active retirees need the right multivitamins, and Costco has stepped up to the plate. A bottle of 400 tablets of Kirkland Signature Adult 50+ Mature Multi Vitamins and Minerals is just $11.49. At a nearby Target, a bottle of 200 tablets of Centrum Silver was $17.39.
The appeal of Costco’s store-branded Kirkland products doesn’t end at vitamins. Kiplinger has sung the praises of several Kirkland Signature items, ranging from booze and beer to batteries and bacon. Costco even sells Kirkland Signature Energy Shots for those occasions when a multivitamin doesn’t provide enough of a pick-me-up.
You're never too old to rock 'n' roll. And you're never to old to save money feeding your music collection. If you're hardcore iTunes, like me, you can stock up on iTunes cards to load onto your account. Costco was selling discounted $100 iTunes cards for $94.49. That's not a huge savings, but it's rare to get a deal on Apple products and services.
I pay monthly fees to Apple for additional cloud storage and streaming music. I also occasionally buy books and apps through Apple. To pay for it, I will stock up on iTunes cards and load them onto my account. The charges are deducted from that instead of being charged to a credit card.