Costco, Others Resume Promotional Activity  

Jacqueline Barba
Associate Editor
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Warehouse club giant Costco is among a number of retailers resuming some normal promotional practices as many businesses and states begin the process of reopening.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the past two months have seen much promotional activity curtailed or entirely suspended, in many cases due to inventory issues as well as social distancing and safety concerns.

But this week, Costco once again began promoting its “In-Warehouse Hot Buys” — routinely highlighted deals plugged via email blasts and on — albeit with the caveat that “Warehouse merchandise availability is subject to limitations or prohibitions imposed by applicable emergency orders.” The warehouse chain also recently began offering its monthly "Member-Only Savings Books" mailers in digital form for the first time via and its mobile app.

Costco similarly deploys frequent digital messaging promoting “Online-Only Hot Buys” and “Members-Only Hot Buys,” neither of which were suspended.

In related news, channel rival Sam’s Club is adding new digital Instant Savings on a weekly basis to a dedicated "Instant Savings Book" shop corralling discounts within The retailer has long distributed a monthly “Instant Savings” catalog to spotlight members-only offers on private label and national brand products in print as well as online at the start of each month. The addition of fresh weekly offers comes as changing shopper behavior has provided a significant boost in online orders.

The warehouse club chains are not the only ones resuming and adjusting their promotional activity to meet the moment:

  • Amazon has restored featured deals, coupons and product recommendations to its site after removing them to discourage additional purchases when it placed temporary restrictions on non-essential item shipments in March. Additionally, the Prime Pantry grocery service Amazon briefly paused in March due to high demand quickly came back online. Likewise, openings for enrolling in Amazon Fresh and placing delivery or pickup orders at Whole Foods were quickly restored after potential customers briefly had to join a waitlist for each in April. Next-day delivery has also started to return for some U.S. markets.
  • Walmart now appears to have quietly suspended its digital circular entirely after initially swapping its usual tab for a less promotional "catalog."
  • Meijer recently brought back its weekly circular after temporarily halting it beginning Easter Sunday, April 12.
  • Publix appears to have halted the dedicated circular it often deploys for non-grocery items.
  • H-E-B has been deploying shortened, three- to four-page paged circulars since early April.

H-E-B also returned to digital coupons, per a May 5 email blast to shoppers delivering “exclusive,” personalized digital coupons. One recipient received a coupon for $5 off purchases of at least $30, while another received one for $3 of a $30 purchase, for example. The missive also plugged the availability of digital coupons for curbside pickup and home delivery orders. The grocer additionally has made it possible for digital shoppers to add items from its weekly circulars directly to their cart or shopping list.