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The Costco Craze: Inside the Warehouse Giant

About the Show

Costco is famous for turning the experience of warehouse shopping into an adventure. Costco, one of the nation’s top three retailers and the world’s largest membership warehouse chain, has thrived by turning convention on its head. The company never advertises, charges its 64 million members to shop there and doesn’t mark up any product more than 15 percent. It’s a business model that works, generating $93 billion in annual sales.

Correspondent Carl Quintanilla shows how Costco has grown to 600 stores, attracting loyal and affluent customers. They return repeatedly for the treasure-hunt thrill of constantly changing inventory, including diamond rings, steaks, wedding dresses and caskets. This CNBC Original documentary also explores a “Costco Effect,” the routine tendency of its members to succumb to the store’s discount-chic allure and spend more than they expect, often buying more than they need.

The Costco Craze Extras

  • Inside the Costco Depot   Thursday, 26 Apr 2012 | 12:00 AM ET
    Inside the Costco Depot

    Call it the "Costco warehouse for the Costco warehouse." Costco's seven massive depots distribute goods to the chain's stores across the country. Carl Quintanilla goes inside the huge operation in Monroe Township, New Jersey, to see how the complex choreography of getting goods to the warehouse floors has been key to Costco's success.

  • Testing Costco's Crown Jewel -- Toilet Paper   Wednesday, 18 Apr 2012 | 12:00 AM ET
    Testing Costco's Crown Jewel -- Toilet Paper

    CNBC's Carl Quintanilla looks at the science and the money behind Costco's number one selling product: toilet paper. The company sells more than a billion rolls per year.

  • The Buyer Behind Costco's Billion Dollar Wine Business

    Annette Alvarez-Peters, Costco's lead wine buyer, is one of the most influential people in the wine industry. She and her team oversee every part of Costco's billion dollar wine business, traveling to tastings in exotic locations like Bordeaux, France, and supervising every dimension of the company's private label "Kirkland Signature" wines.

  • America's Obsession With Costco   Friday, 20 Apr 2012 | 2:48 PM ET
    America's Obsession With Costco

    CNBC's Carl Quintanilla and the Street Signs team discuss Costco's business model, ahead of CNBC's "The Costco Craze" documentary premiering April 26th.

  • No-Frills Retail Revolution Leads to Costco Wholesale Shopping Craze
    By: Michael Beyman|CNBC Associate Producer
    Wednesday, 25 Apr 2012 | 3:28 PM ET
    Shoppers at Costco in Nanuet, N.Y.

    Costco’s low prices and bare-bones operation have not only changed how people shop, but how much they buy.

  • Does It Pay To Be A Warehouse Club Member?
    By: Michael Beyman|CNBC Associate Producer
    Thursday, 12 Apr 2012 | 4:23 PM ET
    A Costco employee pulls shopping charts at a Costco Wholesale store.

    Customers of warehouse stores may believe they’re paying for a chance to save money, but some experts think membership fees actually cause consumers to spend more.

  • Luxury for Less
    By: Ellen Lee
    Thursday, 26 Apr 2012 | 11:05 AM ET
    Warehouse clubs are more than just about stocking up on paper towels and shampoo. Amidst the pallets of super-sized sodas and snacks, they also carry their share of luxury items for that can’t-stop-myself splurge. For example, handbags, and have been known to grace Costco’s shelves over the years.In some cases, the warehouse clubs partner with high-end brands to offer its members exclusive products at discounted prices. However, some retailers may also obtain items through gray-market buying — a

    The selection of luxury goods in warehouse stores varies from region to region and store to store. Click ahead to see luxury items at warehouse clubs that may have you reaching for your wallet.

  • Unusual Retail Experiences Thursday, 19 Apr 2012 | 10:30 AM ET
    Most people go to a store to buy what they need, and call it a day. However, there are some retailers who are going the extra mile to capture customers. It may include selling unexpected items or giving their customers an unusual experience. for example, employs the first strategy by offering customers a treasure hunt of sorts. While the warehouse store, which is the subject of a CNBC documentary is known for big bulk items like pallets of toilet paper and big boxes of cereal, it also sells thin

    Most people go to a store to buy what they need, and call it a day. However, there are some retailers who are going the extra mile to capture customers.

  • Costco: Breaking All the Retail Rules
    By: Lori Gordon Logan and Michael Beyman|CNBC
    Wednesday, 25 Apr 2012 | 4:42 PM ET
    Shoppers at Costco in Nanuet, N.Y.

    What Costco does is contrary to popular wisdom. It doesn’t advertise, doesn’t tell you where to find things, has a limited array of products, and members must pay up front to shop there. Costco sold  $93 billion in merchandise in 2011 to its millions of members.

  • Warehouse Weddings That Take the Cake
    By: Lisa Flam|Special to CNBC.com
    Friday, 13 Apr 2012 | 1:25 PM ET
    Rachel and Brad Kerstetter at their May 2011 wedding.

    Some couples are turning to membership warehouse clubs for substantial savings on things like flowers, food, and even engagement rings.

  • Box Store Weddings Tuesday, 17 Apr 2012 | 1:31 PM ET
    Despite tough economy, American couples still managed to spend, on average, slightly more than $25,000 on their weddings last year. And when every dollar counts, many turn to warehouse membership clubs to stretch their wedding budget to help bring their dream day to life. You may be surprised how many wedding-related items are offered at warehouse stores around the country. There are flowers, wedding rings, outdoor equipment, food and baked goods, alcohol and table linens, all to help make your

    Many Americans have been turning to warehouse membership clubs to stretch their wedding budget to help bring their dream day to life.

  • Costco Food Court

    Fast-food chains have some stiff competition when it comes to drawing hungry, budget-conscious people on the go. Big box destinations such as Costco, Ikea, and Home Depot are making it easy for customers not just to pick up a new couch, but also grab a bite to eat in the process.

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  • Carl Quintanilla

    Carl Quintanilla is an Emmy-winning reporter and co-anchor of CNBC's "Squawk on the Street," broadcast live from the NYSE.