There are many choices of food ingredients, but no one likes to sample like Costco.
Costco Wholesale Corp has long been known for offering some of the best free samples, both in quality and quantity, to create loyalty with customers and increase sales. Now he wants to lead the grocery store to be one of the first to restart taste testing in a safe way in June.
This update was disclosed by Costco CFO Richard Galanti during the company’s latest earnings call Thursday afternoon after an analyst noted the sample had become part of the Costco experience that customers liked. Analysts asked Galanti whether Costco planned to bring them back.
“We will start to do things in mid-June slowly in sampling,” Galanti answered. “I can’t tell you anymore but it doesn’t need to be said, [it’s] will not go where you go and just take open samples with your fingers. “
Costco, which operates 12 stores in Dallas-Fort Worth, stopped offering samples in early March after concerns arose about the service when people first began minimizing contacts because of coronavirus.
Initially, 30,000 employees from the contracting company that handled the Costco sample, Club Demonstrations Services based in San Diego, were assigned to the cleaning and sanitation tasks, according to BuzzFeed News. But at the end of March, Costco ended its relationship with CDS. On April 6 – about a month after Costco ended the sample – CDS was closed and laid off thousands of employees.
Costco said Thursday that the same store sales rose 9.6% for the five week period ending April 5 because buyers bought important items such as toilet paper and water. However, sales at the same store fell 4.7% for the four weeks ended May 3 because orders remained at home and social distance reduced pedestrian traffic. Despite increased sales, net profit fell around 8% year-on-year to $ 838 million for the three-month period ended May 10 due to additional wage and sanitation costs related to COVID-19.
Some buyers may feel safer at Costco, which requires customers to wear face masks, rather than at grocery stores because the large warehouse layout is more suitable for social distance, Galanti told investors.
“When you talk to people anecdotally, they frankly feel more comfortable coming to Costco that is bigger, wider, with a distance of 6 feet that we all do,” he said.
Costco’s confidence in reopening the sample station can cause other traders who are hesitant to speed up plans to restart food demonstrations.
Plano-based Crossmark provides part-time food demonstrators to Walmart and Sam’s Club stores and continues to post open positions at work and recruit Glassdoor sites. Two pages worth of work have been posted in the past seven days.
Sampling is a bigger part of the experience at Sam’s Club than Walmart. Sam’s Club has not made a decision about taking the sample back, said spokeswoman Amy Wyatt-Moore. Likewise, Walmart is still evaluating the situation, said a spokeswoman.
Market Street, which has 18 locations in Texas, ran a pilot sampling project in June to test packaging and procedures, said spokeswoman Nancy Sharp. The process will comply with state and federal health and safety guidelines, he said.
“Like many things, giving a sample will look very different from moving forward than in the pre-COVID world,” Sharp said.
The Dallas-based Central Market, a chain of gourmet grocery stores owned by HEB, is exploring various options for bringing sampling back safely, such as putting food into individual serving glasses with a lid, individual bag, or blister pack, said Mabrie Jackson, director of public affairs for the Central Market and HEB.
“The sample is very large for us,” he said. “Our store is different because it is truly an experience. Samples are part of sensory fun. “
The Central Market foodie team skipped the sample because they didn’t see customers, Jackson said. He said the food demonstration station helped the chain store develop deep relationships with customers, who would stop to chat and enjoy food.
“We are fine now – in new normalcy,” he said. “But we are also thinking about ways to restore our full store experience while keeping people safe.”
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