Or is Manhattan more of a threat to Costco?
For years the discount warehouse retailer Costco has been looking for a site in Manhattan. According to the New York Sun, they may have found one. But there is vocal opposition from residents, politicians and even some unions.
Much of the rationale behind opposing it seems to be that a Costco-type store won’t work: That Manhattan doesn’t offer the types of shoppers or the automotive access that Costco requires. This may be true, but shouldn’t that be Costco’s problem? Presumably, they’ve done their research and think there is a way to survive.
Let’s look at a few of the other reasons why some New Yorkers are opposed to Costco:
1. That it may challenge local family-owned businesses supported by the walkable nature of most neighbourhoods. I have a hard time believing that the opening of one Costco will transform the way New Yorkers live and shop. This argument doesn’t work for me:
- People choose Manhattan because of the densely packed variety of amenities that you can walk to.
- If you live in such a neighbourhood, getting in a car to go to Costco is inconvenient. You’ll only go (if you are a Costco shopper) every month or two to stock up on a few bulky things like toilet paper, paper towels or diapers.
- Most people in Manhattan live in small apartments. A lack of much home storage space means that buying in bulk is not practical. It’s easier to shop daily or every few days and leave the storage of most food and other products to your local small supermarket rather than finding space in your own 900 s.f. apartment that you share with 3 other people.
- Perhaps Costco’s target market is businesses stocking free snacks for kitchens in the office towers rather than people buying personal items?
2. Costco will generate more traffic and make the area even more congested and slow. Again, this may be true but Costco must believe that its shoppers will come at off-peak times or would be driving by anyway. If it’s that hard to shop there, no one will do it.
As some North American cities welcome more people and higher densities into certain areas, more “big box” retailers like Costco will attempt to enter these captive markets. Some will face considerable opposition; others will be welcomed or enter more quietly. I predict, all will need to adapt their styles and even philosophies in order to thrive.