The first sod has not yet been turned on a new Costco store at Bundamba, but already disciples of the warehouse-style grocery and retail behemoth are gathering in Ipswich.
Their meeting point is a Facebook group called Qld Costco Geeks – Bundamba Ipswich.
The unofficial, fan-driven group is a local spin-off of a similar group with a Queensland-wide focus, and is for people who “respect the company and its membership terms that bring us the great experience that Costco is”.
Deebing Heights woman Carol Featherstonhaugh is a member and said she had no doubt Costco would change the shopping landscape in Ipswich.
Ms Featherstonhaugh has been a Costco devotee ever since being introduced to its North Lakes store by her mother and cannot wait for the Bundamba store to open.
“I generally go to the North Lakes store once a school term, mostly to buy non-perishable items; I still get most of my meat and vegetables locally,” she said.
“Some of my friends think I’m crazy for driving an hour but it’s worth it. When most people think of Costco they think about buying in bulk.
“Buying in bulk is not what people think it is, it’s not all pallets of toilet paper. It’s about the unit pricing on items, because that’s where you make the savings.
“For example, on taco seasoning I can buy a container with 70 servings in it for the equivalent of what I would pay for one or two sachets elsewhere.”
Ms Featherstonhaugh said everything, not just the savings, was bigger at Costco.
“It feels more like doing your grocery shopping at a Bunnings than a Woolies or a Coles, they have the most monstrous walk-in refrigerators,” she said.
Ms Featherstonhaugh said there was a strong sense of community among Costco fans.
“The original Qld Costco Geeks Facebook group was started by a man called Peter Graham. He worked opposite the North Lakes store, so he started it to show the store’s progress when it was being constructed,” she said.
“Peter is kind of like our ‘Costco god’. He also runs a webpage but the Facebook group is really the be all and end all. The Qld group has 30,000 members and there are about 120 in the Ipswich group so far.
“There is a real sense of community among Costco shoppers, some people will meet up at the store or in the food court, that kind of thing.
“People will let others know when popular products have been restocked, what specials are available or recipes for how to use different food products, that kind of thing.”
Costco is set to open its Bundamba store later this year. It will be the equivalent in size of two football fields and create up to 280 new jobs.
Costco offers a membership based shopping experience, with customers needing to pay an annual fee to purchase from the store.
As well as its regular line of items, the store offers one-off specials and various seasonal products.
The greatest Costco ‘geek’ of them all
When stay-at-home dad Peter Graham started the Qld Costco Geeks Facebook page in 2009, he never expected how popular it would become.
The Canadian, who now calls Brisbane home, has been a fan of Costco ever since growing up in Windsor, Ontario not far from the Detroit border.
His family regularly crossed the border to shop at Costco for many years until a store opened in Windsor.
He started Qld Costco Geeks when the company announced plans to open in Melbourne.
The group had a slow start, hovering around 150 members for three to four years.
“Then they announced Costco for North Lakes and we got up to about 1,000 members. A month before it opened, it just took off, and we were getting about 400 to 500 requests per week to join. Now we have about 30,000 members,” he said.
Mr Graham said he started the group to help people not familiar with the brand better understand Costco.
“A lot of people don’t know what to expect, and their biggest question is whether it is worth it,” he said.
“Buying in bulk does save money. Not everything is cheaper though.
“You have to know your unit pricing. For example you can get a one litre bottle of Listerine mouthwash for $9.99 from Coles or Woolies and at Costco you can get three in a pack for $26, or if it’s on sale $19.99, so it’s a no brainer.”
So how does he feel about being seen as somewhat of a ‘Costco god’?
“Costco god might be stretching it a bit far, but I definitely never expected it to become what it has. I get invited to every new store opening and was invited to cut the ribbon on the North Lakes store,” he said.
Mr Graham also runs a website called costcogeeks.com