MEMBERSHIP HAS ITS PRIVILEGES
Small-business owners know they need to keep an eye on expenses and cut costs wherever possible, and joining Costco can help. In a recent random sampling of products ranging from office furnishings to paper goods, Costco had lower prices than office-supply stores or Amazon. Costco also offers many services for small businesses.Of course, entrepreneurs must account for the cost of membership. The warehouse club has two levels of membership that allow the purchase of goods for business or resale. The cheapest is $55 and includes one household membership for personal use. The executive business membership costs $110 and offers the same perks, plus a 2 percent annual reward on most Costco purchases and access to lower-cost business services. Here's where these memberships can pay off for small-business owners.
This category includes items such as toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, and tissues for the break room, restroom, or employees' desks. Costco's online prices for these items are right in line with Amazon's. The price of 12 boxes of Kleenex 125-count two-ply tissues, for example, was the same on both sites: $17.29. Costco members have the option of shopping at the local warehouse, where prices may be lower and there's no shipping. To avoid the cost of shipping from Amazon, customers must reach a minimum order threshold of $49 or pay $99 a year for Amazon Prime membership.
Printer paper, ink, pens, staples, sticky notes -- you name it, Costco has it. Most offices go through a lot of printer paper, so it's a good item to buy in bulk. At Costco, a box of 5,000 sheets of store-brand copy paper in letter size is $36, with discounts for customers who buy more than five cases. Office Depot brand paper in the same quantity, size, weight, and brightness is $46.
Bottled water, coffee, teas, snack bags of chips, cookies, and other food and beverage items for an employee break room can be found at all four stores in the price comparison: Costco, Staples, Office Depot, and Amazon. Costco is king of supplying these items in bulk. Take, for instance, a 40-count variety pack of Nabisco snacks available at both Costco and Amazon. The Costco price is $13.39 compared with Amazon's $18.98. Likewise, various brands of K-cup coffee pods (180 count) run $92 at Costco and vary in price on Amazon, but none are cheaper than Costco's offerings.
NEXT-DAY BUSINESS DELIVERY
Costco provides next-day delivery from business centers in the Seattle, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, and Atlanta metropolitan areas, with free shipping for orders of $250 or more. The business centers offer merchandise aimed specifically at small business owners. For example, restaurateurs can find tables, guest check pads, pizza boxes, food trays, busser bins, commercial kitchen equipment, and more.
Costco members can turn to the warehouse club for check-printing services, along with envelopes and deposit solutions, at prices that are likely cheaper than the bank. Executive business members receive a discount of 20 percent off these services.
Through a partnership with Intermedia, Costco offers business-phone service and equipment. Local and long-distance calling and more than 40 calling features are bundled for executive members starting at $25 a month for each phone line ($30 for regular members). Be sure to consider the options from Costco when comparing prices on phone service.
Items such as cash registers, time clocks, label makers, shredders, calculators, and more are available from Costco at prices that are often cheaper than the competition, although not always. For example, the Fellowes Powershred 60Cs, a cross-cut shredder that can take 10 sheets of paper at a time, costs $80 at Costco compared with $90 from Staples, but Amazon is cheapest at $70. (All these online prices include shipping.)
Costco provides business members with discounted payroll services through Intuit QuickBooks Payroll, which includes payment by check or direct deposit, electronically filed W-2s, expert support, and more. The most popular option is $28 a month (and currently $22 a month for the first year) compared with $39 a month for nonmembers ($31.20 for the first six months).
Business owners who need desks, shelving, cubicle systems, and other office furnishings will find that Costco has lots to offer and prices that are comparable to or cheaper than big-box office stores. For example, the Dorado office chair by Avenue Six costs $80 from Costco, while the same model ranges from $85.50 to more than $100 on Amazon (depending on the color) -- and costs $190 at Office Depot.
PAYMENT PROCESSING SERVICES
Costco offers payment-processing terminals that accommodate smart-chip cards and wireless payment methods such as Apple Pay, as well as traditional cards, and help avoid fraudulent transactions. The company claims that low processing rates can save executive business members hundreds of dollars a year.