- Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s are three ubiquitous retailers.
- These companies also have something in common: they’re all members-only warehouse clubs.
- Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s are by no means pioneers, through.
- Plenty of similar, now-defunct ventures launched long before those companies came on the scene.
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Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s are retailers that thrive on a members-only model.
But these modern-day companies certainly didn’t invent the concept of a membership-based retail chain. In fact, the founders of Costco and Walmart — Sam’s Club’s parent company — likely derived inspiration from now-defunct companies that came before.
Some of these early companies catered exclusively to fixed-income federal employees. Others were snatched up by rival membership stores.
Here’s a list of members-only warehouse- and department-store clubs that are no longer with us:
Fedco — or the Federal Employees’ Distributing Company — was the 1948 brainchild of hundreds of postal workers looking for a better place to shop. Despite its pioneering efforts in the members-only warehouse business, Fedco ultimately filed for bankruptcy in 1999.
Inspired by Fedco, Sol Price — whose Price Club chain would ultimately merge with Costco — founded FedMart in 1954. Costco founder James Sinegal himself worked at FedMart before moving on to found his own venture. The company ultimately liquidated its 46 warehouses in 1982 and closed its doors forever.
Atsushi Tsukada/AP Images
It’s not quite fair to say that Price Club, which opened its doors in 1976, is a defunct members-only warehouse. But Costco did erase the Price Club brand when the two retailers merged in 1993. By 1997, all the remaining Price Clubs — or "blue warehouses," as early employees called them — had been retooled as Costcos.
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