Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Costco Travels: Costco in the United Kingdom!

Hi everyone! Apologies for the gap in posts but I have been in United Kingdom for several weeks. Of course, while I was there I made sure to visit a few Costcos, so here are some highlights from my latest Costco experiences abroad. Enjoy!

The first Costco I visited in the UK was in Leeds, England and the weather that day was appropriately very 'English' (cloudy & rainy) ;)
We took our time here and stocked up on food for the weeks to come. I love how they spell 'tire' with a 'y' (tyre) just like the Aussies do!

One of the very first things I noticed was that the steel shelving throughout Costco's in the UK is a different color than it is in the US and Australia warehouses. The US has green vertical bars and orange horizontal bars, but in the UK they had grey vertical bars and yellow horizontal bars. If they can get the same colors in the US and in Australia, I wonder why the different colors in the UK? Maybe a different manufacturer?

Anyway, in the clothing area I found the iconic Lacoste Polo's for men! I haven't seen these in any of the DC area Costcos but maybe they have them at the Manhattan warehouse?

Crocs shoes must be really big in the UK right now because I saw them sold in men's, women's and children's sizes at all three Costcos I visited.

They had a lot of Havaianas flip flops too!

The food sections in international warehouses are always my favorite because that's where I find the biggest differences compared to items sold in the US. This Sticky Toffee Loaf Cake is amazing, it has a consistency similar to a pound cake and it was moist and sweet.

These Cherry Tarts turned out to be quite deceiving. They looked great on the outside, but we deemed them to be just okay. After we sliced them in half we were stunned to discover they were mostly dry cake on the inside and seriously lacking in cherry filling.

I noticed in the UK they don't pull the ends of their croissants together to form circles the way they do in the US. None the less these croissants were melt in your mouth delicious and they made for some decadent sandwiches.

We did not actually buy these next two desserts but I took pictures of them because they are different cheesecake varieties I have never seen at any US Costcos: Lemon and Cookie Dough.

This Tri-Pack Salad looked so good! (And check out the prominent allergen warnings listed below the ingredients near the bottom of their food labels - very cool. Costco should revamp their labels here in the US to make allergen warnings stand out more.)

Next I found Indian Food in the take & bake section of the deli, the Chicken Tikka Masala looked incredibly tasty, I really wish I could get this item in the US.

We didn't buy this platter, but how cute are those little sandwiches? The assorted little triangles with the crusts cut off just puts me in the mood for high tea :)

As a signature Costco item, I was not surprised to see the Rotisserie Chicken available in the UK :)

Ah, yet another item I wish I could have brought home because I am totally addicted to black pudding. Unfortunately, due to international regulations you're not allowed to import or export any meat products to or from the UK (well at least not without a vendor's license and a LOT of paper work). What exactly is black pudding you ask? Well I implore you to try it first and not judge it by its ingredients, which may sound a bit scary, but I promise, properly seasoned and not over cooked black pudding tastes GREAT! (Honestly it really is much better than you would expect it to be and no full English breakfast would be complete without black pudding.)

I did purchase the next several items and I was very much looking forward to trying them but sadly they were lost in what I have dubbed the 'malfunctioning icebox incident' that occurred in my flat and I was not able to eat them:

Mussel & Smoked Salmon Chowder

Spanish Seafood Paella

Leaf Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli and Cheese & Smoked Ham Tortelloni.
(I did get to enjoy the Crab & Crayfish Ravioli which was quite good, and the inside of the packaging was covered in different recipes to try.)

We may not be able to enjoy Kirkland Signature SPRING water in all US locations anymore (as most have been switched to PURIFIED KS water instead), but you can still get the SPRING water throughout the UK!

I am generally not a huge Activia yogurt fan, (I'm more of a Fage Greek Yogurt kind of girl), but these caught my eye, one because they are only an eight pack (how is an eight pack considered BULK packaging lol?) and two, the tropical flavor pack included mango, kiwi and apricot flavors so I picked up the tropical pack and they were surprisingly good.

These Pop-tarts made me giggle because frosted strawberry and frosted chocolate are the ONLY flavors of Pop-tarts you can get in the UK. They don't carry frosted brown sugar, or frosted blueberry, or frosted cherry, or wildberry or any of the other varieties we have in the US.

If you know anything about the English you probably know that tea is a really big deal and the Costcos in the UK did not disappoint in the tea department. I found bulk bundles of one of my favorites teas, PG Tips and they also had an even larger, super bulk size bag. (Seriously the bag of 1610 tea bags was about the size of a bag of KS dog food!) 

These Sourdough Pretzels were so good and very addictive! I hope they are available in US warehouses, if not on the east coast then at least in the San Francisco area.

I'm not sure what these next two items are precisely and unfortunately we did not buy them to try but they appeared to be big sellers and I did a little internet research to figure out what they were.

Jaffa Cakes? According to wikipedia they are a biscuit sized cakes consisting of three layers: a Genoise sponge cake base, then a layer of orange jelly, and a layer of chocolate on top. Sounds pretty tasty.

Pom Bear potato snacks? The huge bag weighed about as much as you would expect a bag of cotton balls to weigh, we couldn't figure out exactly what they were but according to their Facebook page they are a 'fun shaped snack with a melt in your mouth texture that are available in a variety of delicious flavors.' What?

I didn't take pictures of the produce we bought in the Leeds warehouse but it's worth mentioning that the strawberries and blueberries we got were the most delicious berries I think I have ever had in my entire life. Seriously, no hyperbole; every single berry was sweet and bursting with flavor and they had absolutely zero watery taste whatsoever. (The same cannot be said however for the produce we subsequently purchased at Asda and Waitrose...)

Anyway, if you have traveled outside of the US in the last ten years you'll know that most other countries use PIN & chip credit cards, not swipe credit cards, as they are supposed to be more secure. This can make using US swipe style credit cards a bit of a hassle for Americans traveling abroad. Thankfully, all of the UK Costco's that I visited gladly accepted my US Costco AMEX credit card with only a little bit more effort and I ended up with two receipts instead of just one :)

The Leeds warehouse must not be as busy as some of the other Costco locations because this was the only location I visited that dimmed the lights and closed the food court at precisely 8-o'clock sharp (closing time) so we missed out on trying the local food court cuisine. 

European cars may be much smaller than what we're used to in the US, but I was amazed that we were able to fit two shopping trolleys (carts) full of stuff for four people in the boot (trunk) of our little car!

The second Costco I visited in the UK was in Edinburgh, Scotland and our main reason for visiting was to grab a quick & inexpensive lunch so we made a bee line for the food court before we did any browsing or shopping.

Their food courts have the staples you'd expect to find in any Costco like the hotdog & soda combo, chicken bakes, pizza and the hot turkey & provolone sandwiches, but they also had a few items we don't have in the US: Aberdeen Angus Cottage Pie, Jacket Potatoes and BBQ Chicken Pizza.

The Aberdeen Angus Cottage Pie is a minced meat pie with a mashed potato crust (similar to a Shepard's Pie but without any vegetables). This was hands down my favorite food court item, it was hot and filling but not too heavy, and the individual little pie was the perfect portion for one (it was about the same size as one of those small frozen pot pies we have in the US).

Jacket Potatoes are basically what we call baked potatoes in the US, but Costcos in the UK serve them with toppings like baked beans (in a tomato sauce), cheese, beef chili, tuna or coleslaw. They were huge potatoes and they looked delicious but we opted to try the BBQ pizza instead.

In UK Costco's pizza comes in three varieties: Cheese, Pepperoni and BBQ Chicken instead of Combo pizza (the same was true for Costco pizza in Australia).  We tried the BBQ chicken but found it to be disappointingly 'just okay.' It didn't have the tangy zing I have come to except my BBQ chicken pizza to have. Also, I'm pretty sure they used the same italian cheeses that they use on the other pizzas instead of something that goes better with BBQ sauce like a nice smoked Gouda. (And yes we noticed most everyone around us was eating their pizza with a fork & knife.)

Anyway, after lunch we walked about and found a several things that we didn't see at the Leeds warehouse. This Tear & Share Brioche, a scrumptious sweet bread, was gobbled up with our morning tea for a quick, light breakfast. 

Aussie haircare is my favorite grocery store shampoo & conditioner and when I saw this bundle at Costco I just had to grab it!

I fell in love with the Original Source Mint & Tea Tree body wash (they  green one) while I was in Australia last year and I was ecstatic to see it available at Costco. With the coupon it was an amazing deal too because I had just paid over £1 for a single bottle at Boots. Since I was only going to be in the UK for several weeks, not several months, I reluctantly had to pass on purchasing this item.

Same thing with the bundles of Radox Bath Soaks, which make for wonderful aromatic bubble baths but I wasn't going to be there long enough to warrant the Costco sized purchase.

Ok this next thing kind of blew my mind. We all know how Costco puts out samples of food and the occasional beverages right? But have you ever seen a Costco sample ALCOHOLIC beverages??? Yes that's right, the Edinburgh Costco was sampling hard cider and 12 year old whisky! I sampled both (preferring the whisky over the ciders) and then I immediately called my dad to gloat lol ;)

In the deli section we spotted a take & bake Chicken Fajita pizza loaded with bell peppers and jalape├▒os. Oh man it looked so good!

Oh if only I could bring home meat with me! They were sampling these Cumberland Sausages and they were so delicious I shamelessly went back for seconds.

De ja vu? This made me chuckle as it has been several years now since the US Costcos have carried the KS household wipes in these vertical plastic containers. I loved those tall plastic containers and how they fit under the sinks in the kitchen & bathrooms and I revolted when they brought in the flimsy rectangular packaging we have today. But alas, I have come to love the flimsy rectangular packages since my mom showed me how they fit perfectly inside kitchen & bathroom drawers for quick access and I get double the amount of the orange scent which is my favorite.

These Danish Whirls were fantastic! They were light & fluffy, pull-apart cinnamon raisin pastries with a coating of sweet icing on top. We didn't need them, but we bought them anyway and thoroughly enjoyed them.

If you are into shortbread I think Walkers is the way to go -- they have the perfect buttery taste without being too dry. If you're ever in the UK skip the expensive souvenir shops and head to Costco where you can get a 1Kg supply at a fantastic price.

Ah, the Caramel Crispy's, these chocolate rice crispy like treats have a layer of caramel and are topped with a layer of milk chocolate. They were the perfect combination of sweet, crunchy and chewy goodness.

The third and last Costco I was able to visit was the Trafford Park warehouse in Manchester, England and I was only able to squeeze it in by fluke. (Thank you United for canceling my flight and giving me an extra 16 extra hours to spend in Manchester!)

The first difference from the US warehouses that I noticed about this UK Costco was that they scanned my membership card at the door; they took my card out of my hand and physically scanned the barcode on the back. I've never experienced that at a Costco before, in the US or in Australia. I wonder what the purpose is?

Anyway, upon entering something else instantly jumped out at me in the electronics area: Ashton Kutcher hawking a tablet. Lenovo Yoga Tablet? Never heard of it before but Ashton's face was all over it and it seemed to be a lot cheaper than an iPad.

Moving on...very similar to Vegimite that is loved by Aussies, Marmite is much loved by the Brits. It's not really my cup of tea, but hey if you're into it you can get a bucket full of it at Costco at a great price!

I made it to the cleaning products aisle of this Costco and saw that they carry Fairy Soap! P&G (Proctor and Gamble) makes dish soaps, dishwasher soaps and laundry detergents under the brand name Fairy in the UK. I assume they are similar to the Dawn, Cascade & Tide brands that we have here in the US. I just love that its called Fairy Soap :)

Fat Fuzzies are super cute pipe cleaner craft kits for kids. If I had any room left in my luggage I totally would have brought some of these home for my nephew. 

In case you weren't aware, Football (aka Soccer to Americans) is really big in the UK, and the UK Costco's were not lacking in football gear.

When you're remodeling and redecorating your house you're always on the look out for fixtures, appliances and furniture. I came across this beautiful white ceramic sink and for about a minute I seriously contemplated how I could get it home for the laundry room (don't worry -- I eventually came to my senses).

I also came across these fun lamps that kind of look like trees, they had a floor version and a table version. I'm definitely going to look around for these in the US.

UK Costco's apparently carry baby food, check out these varieties of Ella's Kitchen baby foods I found. My friends who have kids love these things for their convenient portability -- I wonder if they'll ever bring them into the US Costcos.

Another item I wish I could have brought home because it looked so delicious: Curry Dave's Indian Flatbread Pizza! (How cute is the Curry Dave logo!?)

Check out this neat Wimbledon Edition Lanson Champagne complete with its own tennis ball zipper cover. 

I found two more excellent British Teas at this Costco: Tetley and the famous Yorkshire Tea.

We really enjoyed this variety pack of cookies (or biscuits as the Brits call them), and they were great with tea. Check out the cute cartoon on the inside of the boxes!

They also had delicious Aussie-style soft licorice that I wish I had room in my luggage to bring home.

There is a Krispy Kreme in the parking lot across from this Costco so naturally Costco had to sell packs of a dozen fresh assorted doughnuts ;)

They had adorable t-shirts by Craghoppers, a British outdoor clothing company, and Costco was selling them for 50% less than their retail price!

The Tour de France is the oldest and one of the greatest annual cycling races in the world. While it may not be as widely regarded in US as it is in Europe I couldn't resist picking up this official souvenir packet for my mom who devoutly follows the tour every year. It also didn't hurt that the first three stages of the this year's tour were in the UK ;)

While I have yet to have any kids of my own I have developed quite the soft spot for children's books after discovering a box of books from my childhood in my grandparents' attic several summers ago. Since then, I have been on the lookout for other books I remember from my childhood as well new children's books. At the Manchester Costco I found this awesome bundle of 10 "You Wouldn't Want To Be..." books that I did not buy, but in hindsight I really wish that I had. Each book takes on an amusing tone to explain what life was like in "exciting and gruesome periods" throughout history like the Middle Ages, Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt. The 10 pack retails for 69.90 but Costco was selling it for only 9.99 and with no VAT (valued added tax)!! Maybe I can find this on and have it shipped to the US....

Lastly I must point out how the UK Costco's have the best flat carts! We have those bright orange ones here in the US and they are fabulous for larger items, but what happens when you need to buy one large item AND a few smaller items? Well the Brits figured that out by adding these awesome little baskets to the backs of their flat carts. Pure genius. I must recommend that they bring these to the US.

I hope you have enjoyed this little peak into Costcos in the UK. My next posts will get back to focussing on US warehouses and products. Stay tuned for my reviews of my new Novaform mattress and the coveted Jennifer Adams bedding!

Until next time,
the Costco Connoisseur


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  1. Well done for an expose of the various quirks an differences you found while u were in the Uk!
    Glad u enjoyed our country.

    Y'all come back now, ya hear..............

    1. Glad you enjoyed my post! I absolutely adore the UK and I cannot wait to visit again and of course explore even more Costcos :)
      Thanks for reading my blog!

  2. Most Brits definitely do not eat pizza with a knife and folk... Where even did you get that idea from, maybe the size of the Costco pizza slices a child would eat with a knife and folk or the elderly but I've yet to meet anyone British eat with a knife and folk... And I'm British

    1. Hi, thank you for reading my blog! I meant no disrespect with my comment I was simply relaying my experiences and observations. When I ordered the slice of pizza from the Edinburgh Costco food court they told me forks and knives were over there and indicated to the where they were located near the fountain drinks. When we sat down we noticed most everyone around us was eating their pizza with forks and knives as well. Perhaps it's more of a thing in Scotland? Regardless, I've amended my wording and removed the broad statement that "most Brits eat their pizza with forks & knives." Cheers!

  3. Hi! just so you know...the cherry tarts your purchased were not 'cherry pies' they would have been more of a Bakewell Tart which is mostly dry filling (made with ground almonds) with a little jam (jelly) they are much loved in the UK (not by me though I hate almonds!)

  4. Excellent article. Very interesting to read. I really love to read such a nice article. Thanks! keep rocking.
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  5. aweee that's such a lovely article you wrote and you're so passionate about costco!! can't wait to go back this weekend now. I'll be sure to read more of your blogs

  6. Very good points you wrote here..Great stuff...I think you've made some truly interesting points.Keep up the good work.
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  7. It's very interesting to read an American's observations and impressions of a British version of an American store. How you were intrigued by Jaffa Cakes really made me smile. Thank you. Michael (UK)