If you’re a member of the wholesale retailer Costco, you’ll likely know that it’s known for selling way more of stuff than you’ll ever need, surprisingly good food-court pizza, and quality products from its house brand, Kirkland.
Many of Costco’s most popular products, especially those that aren’t TVs, produce, or giant-sized portions of paper goods, are sold under the Kirkland brand, which generally can’t be found outside of a Costco store, meaning if you don’t have a membership or a friend with one, you’re out of luck. Or at least, that’s how it’s meant to be.
A quick scan of the web reveals that there are in fact dozens of Kirkland products being sold on Amazon’s website. There’s Kirkland slippers, Kirkland underpants, Kirkland plastic wrap, Kirkland coffee, Kirkland quinoa, and even Kirkland hair-growth pills. Many of these products are available with Amazon’s Prime two-day delivery option. There’s even a storefront on Amazon for Kirkland products. According to Business Insider, these sales on Amazon Marketplace account for a majority proportion of Costco’s online sales. You can also find Kirkland products on some of the more random corners of the internet.
Some of the products appear to have a mark-up over their prices on Costco’s own website. A 2-liter bottle of Kirkland-brand olive oil costs $22.99 on Amazon, but on Costco, it’s priced at $16.99 for my zip code. Similarly, Kirkland adult dog food retails for $43.99 on Costco’s site, but costs $56.29 on Amazon. Ironically, in both cases, Amazon prominently displays near the purchase button that it sells its own brands of products for much less; Solimo dog food, and AmazonFresh olive oil. Many of the products listed on Amazon are included in Costco’s own brochure (pdf) about membership as being some of its most popular Kirkland items, including the dog food, as well as men’s dress shirts, and health supplements.
But not every Kirkland product listed on Amazon is overpriced. Kirkland ground cinnamon is actually about $3 cheaper on Amazon’s site than Costco’s own, as are Kirkland fish oil capsules (although the ones on Amazon appear to have an older branding than the ones on Costco).
Although Costco sells to regular consumers, it is technically a wholesaler, so anyone wishing to apply for a business membership (with a valid business license) can buy products at Costco and re-sell them as they want. Regular consumer members aren’t supposed to do this.
Whether Amazon wants a direct competitor’s house-brand products on its site is another thing. There are multiple threads on Amazon’s seller forum asking about whether sellers can put Kirkland products up on Amazon. There are no clear answers, but replies suggest that Amazon may not want Kirkland products on its site, even if the products are being bought appropriately at Costco. But given their prevalence, it doesn’t seem that Amazon is doing much about these products.
Costco and Amazon weren’t immediately available to comment on the Kirkland products on Amazon, and whether this was an official partnership between the two retailers. Costco used to work with Jet.com, an online retail startup bought by Walmart in 2016, but after the deal was completed, that door was closed. There are, however, a few resellers on Walmart still trying their luck with overpriced Kirkland products. (Costco also partners with Instacart to offer non-members deliveries of its products, although with shipping fees, using the service could end up being more expensive than just getting a Costco card.)
“Costco’s exclusive Kirkland Signature label isn’t just a house brand—it’s one of the best reasons to join Costco,” the company says in its membership brochure. Costco operates 773 stores in 12 countries, and offers e-commerce in six countries, it said in its earnings report from earlier this month. A membership for Costco in the US starts at $60. “Compare any Kirkland Signature product with its brand-name counterpart, and you’ll see why so many Costco members rave about their purchases,” the brochure continues.
Whether those products are really worth overpaying for them, instead of just getting a membership to Costco, or buying similarly priced items on Amazon, is really up to consumers. Perhaps you don’t live near a Costco, or have done the math and found that even overpaying for Kirkland products on Amazon outweighs the $75 Costco makes you hit for free two-day delivery.
But regardless, one of the main reasons for joining Costco is available without a membership—if you’re willing to pay the premium.