This has served me well for decades. Oh, under pressure I did buy cheap, ill-fitting underwear on a couple of college weekends due to my aversion to doing laundry and a limited budget, but my underwear inventory generally remains well-stocked.
- Andrew Leckey
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"You can never have too much toilet paper."
As my friend headed out shopping, I mentioned to her that I was going to pick up toilet paper and other household supplies later. No need, she said, she'd grab some for me as she did her shopping.
Turns out she was going to a membership warehouse club and returned with an SUV of toilet paper--12-packs that now fill all my available bathroom and closet space. Nice favor.
Buying in bulk at a low price, she left me well stocked through next year, perhaps through 2008, and certainly beyond my wildest dreams. My only fear is my paper-laden home could be a fire hazard.
In the mid-1980s, I first began to report on the membership warehouse club phenomenon. I recall my walk through a newly opened, high-efficiency, no-frills facility for the first time was like entering a theme park for mass shopping.
Costco Wholesale Corp., Sam's Club and BJ's Wholesale Club emerged as the Big Three.
But BJ's Wholesale, in third place with about 170 warehouse stores in 16 states in the Eastern U.S., is having a tough time competing against its two larger rivals and rejuvenated old-line supermarket chains. It lacks their purchasing clout with suppliers, its East Coastmarket is becoming saturated and it's only a matter of time before competitors enter it more aggressively.
Despite an increase in sales, BJ's third-quarter earnings were down significantly from a year ago because general and administrative expenses were up. In the best of times, profit margins at wholesale clubs are slender.
Mike Wedge, BJ's president and chief executive since 2002, has been forced out after a tenure of erratic returns. He announced last month that he was stepping down, and the company said it is seeking a "fresh perspective" as it searches for his replacement. With uncertainty outweighing its solid finances, BJ Wholesale stock receives a consensus "hold" on Wall Street, according to Thomson Financial.
Purchasing in bulk makes good financial sense, but that inherently favors the bigger competitor. Another irrefutable truth is that early leadership in any field matters little when the industry and its customers are focused on the here and now.
Andrew Leckey is a Tribune Media Services columnist.