Monday, January 28, 2008

Local Costco’s 20% Expansion Could Mean 100% Aggravation for Shoppers

I shuddered after reading an article in my local newspaper, the Staten Island Advance, regarding Costco’s plan to expand its busy Staten Island, N.Y., store by 20% (21,000 sq. ft.) and reducing precious parking space by 10%. The reason behind the expansion: to make room for large appliances that are currently available at other locations and to store more inventory.

That seems fair, but according to the Advance, this Costco location “ranks among the top 15% of the company’s 529 stores worldwide when it comes to customer traffic and sales.” The parking lot already resembles a carnival-style bumper-car ride; I can’t imagine it getting any better. Cutting 76 out of 808 parking spaces will be a problem for customers—and, perhaps, for sales, too.

The parking lot is always busy with drivers and shoppers coming and going with carts in tow—not to mention the line at the gas pump—and there are only two ways to enter and exit. I learned to steer clear of this area and do my shopping at the local supermarket or out-of-town Costco (there’s one only 25 minutes away in New Jersey).

After this expansion (which is still being reviewed by the New York City Department of City Planning Commission) I wonder if shoppers will flee and find another wholesale club with more parking; or if they will battle the Staten Island crowd to buy the new stock of large appliances and inventory that awaits them inside.

Costco’s president and CEO Jim Sinegal told the Advance that the store plans to use off-site employee parking and will work with City Planning to improve traffic flow in and out of the lot. Driving aisles will be widened and a pedestrian-friendly grass buffer will be added around the perimeter.

Wider driving aisle and a grass buffer still sounds like less parking to me; and it may not be enough to bring shoppers like me—who want to get in and get out—back into the store.

—Jennifer Mosscrop

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