If you don’t have a car, dislike shopping in a crowd or live outside the city center, you may be interested in doing some of your Costco shopping online.
COSTCO currently has 26 warehouses across Japan and there are items in some stores which are not available, sold-out, or temporarily missing in others which makes member access to an online store more appealing. The COSTCO online shop is bilingual and offers free, quick shipping to anywhere across Japan. When I trialed the service, the products I ordered arrived within 2 days which was fantastic!
Our takkyubin delivery driver, however, looked less than pleased realizing that he will now be regularly asked to carry heavy COSTCO boxes up our narrow road. I hope he brings someone to help if we buy a sofa or larger items from the online store 😉
How to Use the Online Store
The first step is to create an account to use the online store. If you are a costco member, it is an easy process to create an online account using your existing Costco membership number. If you have a lapsed membership or are not yet a member, you can also sign-up for a membership on this page.
Once logged in, you can check on your membership settings, then shop and collect items into your cart. Once finished, check all of the items in your cart and notice that 10% tax is often included, or will be clearly added. Shipping is free even for large appliances and furniture.
When finished shopping, you can choose your own, or a different shipping address for gift deliveries, and then add your credit card details. Using the same system as shopping at a Costco warehouse, only Mastercard credit cards are accepted for online shopping.
Easy Access to Dry Goods
As a COSTCO shopper who often can’t find favorite items when they disappear or move to a new area of the warehouse, I find the online store a lot easier to navigate. Although the online shop does not have any of the bakery items, fresh fruit, vegetables, seafood, meat or any other frozen, chilled or fresh items. It does, however, offer greater access to dry-goods, electronics, and other non-perishable products.
There is a good-sized section to shop for the Kirkland COSTCO Own Brand, What’s New and customers can also use the online store to Pre-order party food platters and cakes to be picked up at a local warehouse.
Search Function Limitations
The search function still needs improvement as a search in English or Japanese for Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Halal, or allergy-free does not currently produce any results. If searching by brand or product title, shoppers are able to find soy or almond milk, beans, nuts, juices and other items that are vegan and vegetarian. Also, if you search Gluten-Free, nothing appears, however, if you find the Skippy Peanut Butter listing it clearly states that it is gluten-free. As it is a new system, I hope the search function will improve and more products become available over time.
The Hot Buys section listing discounted items is also worth a look as many items offer significant savings.
COSTCO as Equal-Opportunity Japan Employer
There are plans to open 50 more stores across Japan in the next ten years, it seems that the Costco model is working well in the Japanese market.
There are over 9,500 employees working at COSTCO Japan and the company has a good reputation for equal pay and equal access to promotions and career opportunities. The company has a 50/50 gender equality policy and has won awards in Japan for promoting working women and supporting working mothers in Japan. The online shop also offers access to their recruitment pages in both English and Japanese for new graduates as well as mid-career hires if you are looking for part-time (20+ hours/week) or full-time work (40+ hours/week).
Costco first opened next to the Carp baseball stadium in Hiroshima city in 2013 and has become part of Hiroshima city’s culture for businesses as well as residents. It’s great to learn that COSTCO has a clear CSR mission engaging with the community and includes collaborating with charities such as Second Harvest to decrease food waste and has been transparent as an equal opportunity employer in Japan.
Costco is transparent about the environmentally-friendly policies it uses in operations and it would be great to see more of Costco’s environmentally-products available at the online store. For example, the Residential Solar Panel and Battery systems are not online, only available at the warehouse, but residential solar systems are sold on their US website.
One benefit of shopping bulk at Costco is that only reusable bags or the reuse of boxes are available at the check-out. It would be great to see further improvements to decreasing the amount of plastic packaging waste sold by increasing product lines which have more easily recyclable containers such as paper, metal, and glass instead of plastic. Costco has been clear about their efforts to improve their packaging to include more recycled materials. Adding reusable trays, plates, cups, straws, lids, and utensils to the food court as well as creating reusable containers for the in-house sold baked goods would significantly reduce plastic waste at the Hiroshima store.
Plastic waste is a problem for Japan in general, and I live in hope that international chains such as Costco can have a positive effect on the retail industry by implementing these changes. For example, it’s great to see biodegradable (compostable) food containers sold at the online store which I hope will soon be adopted in eateries across Japan. Seeing more compostable package options like this alongside more reusables at the Costco food-courts would be a welcome change.
Customer feedback is an important aspect of the COSTCO model, so if you have a suggestion or concern, make sure you fill in a customer feedback form at the warehouse or via the customer service portal online.
I hope this information has been useful. How do you find shopping at Costco in Hiroshima? Feel free to leave your comments in the section below.