ShopSmart Puts Warehouse Club Savings to the Test
YONKERS, NY — People are often surprised to find that warehouse club savings are worthwhile even if you have a small family or live alone. The December 2011 issue of ShopSmart magazine, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, did a price comparison of 18 common items at warehouse clubs, supermarkets, Target, and Walmart, and online retailers, and found that you can save up to 55 percent by shopping at warehouse clubs.
“The secret to really big savings at a warehouse club is knowing which items are real deals and which to pass on,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “We sent our mystery shoppers out to the stores to see where you’ll save the most.”
Here are some of the lessons we learned:
- Clubs are great supermarket alternatives.
Almost all of the grocery items on our list were at least 20 percent cheaper at Costco and Sam’s Club than at other retailers.
- Batteries are the biggest bargain.
Duracell AA batteries were 63% cheaper at Costco than at supermarkets. Yes, you’ll have to buy a big multipack, but batteries last.
- Timing is everything.
Remember, these are everyday prices. You might find better deals on popular staples when they go on sale at supermarkets and discount stores. And you can use coupons at those stores for extra savings; among the warehouse clubs, only BJ’s accepts manufacturer’s coupons.
- You’ll save big on gifts and more.
Take advantage of club “extras” like eyeglasses, gas, cell-phone service, and health screenings, and your membership will pay for itself even faster. Same goes for holiday shopping. The clubs are full of great gift ideas, including books, movies, clothes, and electronics, so now is a good time to join.
The biggest bargains we found
Duracell AA Batteries: 33 cents per battery at Costco (save 63% vs. supermarkets)
Kleenex Tissue: 63 cents per 100 sheets at Costco (save 43% vs. supermarkets)
Cheerios: 14 cents per ounce at Costco and Sam’s (save 53% vs. Amazon.com)
Reynolds Wrap Heavy Duty: 4 cents per square foot at Costco and Sam’s (save 50% vs. supermarkets)
Thomas’ Original English Muffins: 27 cents per muffin at Costco (save 53% vs. supermarkets)
Other good deals
Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid: 9 cents per fluid ounce at Costco and Sam’s (save 31% vs. supermarkets)
Maxwell House Coffee: 24 cents per ounce at Costco (save 38% vs. supermarkets)
Skippy Peanut Butter: 10 cents per ounce at Sam’s (save 33% vs. supermarkets)
Tropicana 100% Orange Juice: 38 cents per 8-fluid-ounce glass at Costco and Sam’s (save 20% vs. supermarkets)
Not worth the trip
Advil Liqui-Gels Capsules – Best Bet: Order at Amazon, spend $25, and get free shipping (with Amazon Prime, two-day shipping is free).
Coca-Cola – Best Bet: Wait for a supersale at a supermarket or mass retailer, like three 12-packs for $10 or even less.
Tide Original or HE – Best Bet: Take a coupon to the supermarket when Tide is on sale. Costco and Sam’s don’t accept manufacturer coupons.
About Consumer Reports:
Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.
About ShopSmart magazine:
Launched in Fall 2006 by Consumer Reports, ShopSmart draws upon the publication’s celebrated tradition of accepting no advertisements and providing unbiased product reviews. ShopSmart features product reviews, shopping tips on how to get the most out of products and “best of the best” lists. It’s ideal for busy shoppers who place a premium on time. ShopSmart has a newsstand price of $4.99 and is available nationwide at major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, Borders, Kroger, Safeway and Publix. ShopSmart is available by subscription at www.ShopSmartmag.org.
ShopSmart is available 10 times a year. Subscribe at www.ShopSmartmag.org.