A warehouse club is a retail store, usually selling a wide variety of merchandise, in which customers pay annual membership fees in order to shop. The clubs are able to keep prices low due to the no-frills format of the stores. In addition, customers are required to buy large, wholesale quantities of the store's products, which makes these clubs attractive to both bargain hunters and small business owners. The concept is similar to the many consumers' cooperative supermarkets found in Europe, though using bigger stores and not co-operatively owned. The use of members prices without co-operative ownership is also sometimes used in bars and casinos.
Sol Price founded FedMart in 1954, an early US discount store. Sol and his son Robert Price founded Price Club in San Diego in 1976 as the first warehouse club. In 1982, discount pioneer John F. Geisse founded The Wholesale Club of Indianapolis, which he sold to Sam's Club in 1991.
Today three warehouse club chains operate in the United States. Costco and Sam's Club are the largest chains. Sam's Club claims a membership base of 46 million persons and 500 stores across the United States. Costco has locations in seven other nations including Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. BJ's Wholesale Club is the smaller competitor with stores located primarily in the Northeastern United States.
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