Never pay retail

Costco at Docklands in Melbourne opens today at 8am. I’ll be very interested to hear how it goes, but I’m not going to be rushing in to cough up my $60 to join up and start doing my shopping there.

For one thing I’ve realised that if one is prepared to be brand-agnostic, keep an eye on the specials, and (moderately) stock up when possible, it would appear that there’s no real reason to ever pay retail price on many groceries. Perhaps it’s due to the newish competition from Aldi, but it seems like brand names of most staples are heavily discounted at either Coles or Safeway most weeks of the year.

Take, for example, bread of the Helga’s, Noble Rise and Aldi’s Baker’s Taste range. In my book, all acceptable for lunches, toast, jaffles etc. The Aldi product sells for $2.99, so let’s assume for the sake of argument that $3 is a reasonable amount to pay.

Helga’s and Noble Rise retail for about $4.50 per loaf, but regularly on special for about $3 (or often $6 for two — chuck one in the freezer) at Coles or Safeway. This week that deal is on offer at Coles for Helga’s.

So while one could go and pay $4.50 for a loaf of nice-ish bread, with a little forward planning and watching the specials, it doesn’t seem like you’d need to pay more than $3 — 33% cheaper than the “regular” retail price.

I don’t get the catalogues in the junk mail at home anymore, but happily they’re all online: Coles; Safeway/Woolworths; Aldi. IGA has a web site, but hasn’t got specials on it.

Mind you, most of the online catalogues don’t appear until the week they’re valid, whereas the paper ones seem to get distributed a few days earlier, which would help with forward planning.

It’ll be interesting to see how the prices at Costco stack up.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

12 replies on “Never pay retail”

Cool – it looks as if my US CostCo card (valid through December) will work here.

Sweet. I am going to stock up on Kirkland salsa, diapers, and wipes on Wednesday. I am hoping they’ll have the 12 bagels for $3.00 special they have in the store I shopped at in the US. I am also missing proper frosting, so I might see if they have some tubs of that.

I feel a bit of retail therapy coming on! Happy happy joy joy.


Local homegrown wholesalers – where you don’t need to pay for membership – have helped me save $ for years…it’s called planning ahead, like buying the bread on special and freezing one loaf.

I tried Costco for a year, and gave it up. The trouble of getting to the store, far away, was one. Then, in the store, anything perishable is sold in huge quantities. That’s okay for stuff you can freeze – like pork chops and steak. But having to buy 2 big bags of milk, or 3 heads of romaine, or 2 tubs of cottage cheese – I just found it took up way too much fridge space. I’d rather shop locally – within a mile of my house – at the local IGA that gives me my AirMiles points, and that has the generic brands that I usually use. A pound of butter, a hunk of cheese in a usable size. And fresh veggies from the market in season, and otherwise from the green-grocers. The only way Costco worked for me, was the large quantiies of paper towels, toliet paper, and other non perishables. But, to waste the gas to get there for that? And pay $60 for the “privilege”? Really really not worth it.

I’m going away for 10 weeks and a friend will house sit and look after the cat. I waited till Coles ran their regular discount on Whiskas catfood from $1.35 to $1.00. I then went in and asked them to order in 5 cases and got a raincheck at the reduced price.

Tonight I’m going to pick up 120 cans at a saving of $42.00.

Awww it’s almost worth a trip to Melbourne to have a sticky beak. Always wanted to shop at them on my jaunts o/s but wasn’t a local.

And Andrew: have you ever tried USA Foods? They used to be @ Bentleigh. When I come down to Melbourne I always head there for the stuff I wish they sold here. Like Choc Chip Cookie Dough Pop Tarts.

Hopefully this will give more to the ghost-town of Docklands, making more people come to it and explore.

The only problem is that no public transport will be used to get to and from Costco, I mean, if you travel 20kms or so to get discount food, you’re going to want to get more than you can carry on a train.

I went to Costco today and got a membership card and bought some things that I could carry in my backpack. One purchace on a big ticket item can pay back this membership cost in savings. I was a member in the US and I shopped there once in a while for certian things. I was able to get there by train and then the docklands tram which stops not too far away. For a larger shopping trip one would need to use a car. Most American families would probably only shop there once or twice a month or so to stock up things like toilet paper, soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, and other non perishables. Not all the product sizes are too large for a single person however. I will shop at Costco like I do Aldi. Aldi as you know is very good for some things but it cannot be your sole shopping place for everything.

Most of the products in the new Costco are Australian products but there are quite a few American products too, some of which have no good Australian substitute.

The prices seem very good to me even with the limited knowledge I have on what things should cost here in Melbourne. An Aussie with kids to raise and feed would be a better judge than me. Kirkland is their house brand and Kirkland products are usually comparable to leading brands in the US

Some prices that I can recall: $499 for a Shwinn mountain bike, $14.99 for a 16″ ready to bake pizza, $9.99 for a 1.3 kilo hot rotisserie chicken, about $899 for a 36″ LCD digital TV, about $1,200 for a larger LCD digital TV, and $1.50 for a large soft drink with free refills in the food court. Today’s free MX newspaper (plenty of free ones littering the trains too) also has an article about Costco and a cost comparison chart and some of the savings are impressive indeed.

Daniel, you may find a membership even more worthwile than I do mine with your children to feed, a house to maintain, and the office and computer supplies that you probably buy regularly. At least head over there for a look around. They should let you have a look around the store without getting a membership card but if you want to buy something you will need a card which is fairly quick to get. If you are not satisfied with the membership the cost will be refunded.

The store was very busy when I was there and many more people were coming in as I left about 7:30 PM. I think they will do very well in Australia and perhaps add a little needed competition

Something that I read in that linked blog post was the temptation factor. I’d forgotten about that in regards to Costco. I do much much better with a set list, with little temptation for “extras”. A few times I can recall arriving home with over $400 worth of groceries and extras. Tim freaked, and said that I was dangerous in that store. And yeah, the temptation factor to spend is there, for sure. The chocolate aisle is only one example. If you do go, go with a calculator, and a set amount in mind of what you can honestly afford to spend. And definitely need a car to shop there.

A membership card might be less if you own your own business…. we get money back every year but we have the Am.Ex. Costco card.
20 years ago it was a cheap date night to explore the store and grab a hot dog and soda for a $1.50. (still the same price today)
I concer with all the above product suggestions but we’ve also found clothes to be cheaper – Kirkland brand jeans have always been around $35 dollars here in the states, jackets and swimsuits are always at a great price. We are big readers and books/cd’s are the cheapest at Costco.
The travel deals are very good as well, we’ve saved money on hotels and car rentals using our Costco card.

Admit it, you’re going to get curious. Have fun!

You’re right Daniel! Too bad the store is about 15 kms drive away, isn’t it? Ah well, Costco and I are better far apart :P Have fun, if you do go. It’s certainly a feast for the eyes, and the senses.

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