Costco's Black Friday coupons featured local goodies
distributed two sets of coupons leading up to Black Friday. One was a generic, any-Costco-USA flyer that would be no different if you'd received it in Peoria, Ill.
The other, with 29 coupons, features snacks, coffees and lei, most of them from 18 Hawaii-based companies.
OK, so Mauna Loa is now owned by Hershey Foods Corp. and a couple featured companies' products are imported from elsewhere, but we view them as local, such as the Tomoe Brand arare sold by Taiyo Inc., incorporated in 1970.
Darrell Evans, Hawaii regional buyer for Costco, was not aware of the company issuing coupons specifically for local products in any other market.
"It's an opportunity to give the local vendor community the opportunity to participate, just like the national companies do," he said.
The Costco coupons, which were good from Friday through Sunday, were also a way for the chain and its local vendors to be a part of the whole Black Friday shopping phenomenon, spread over a few days, Evans said.
So, did Costco get its piece of the Black Friday pie?
Yes, Evans said.
"Most everybody that was in that book(let) is relatively large by Hawaii standards; they are big players in this market," he said.
Diamond Bakery Co. has been in business in Hawaii since at least 1921. The flyer had a coupon for $2 off a 32-ounce plastic jar of its Hawaiian candy-bead cookies.
Slightly newer companies, such as Purdyco Ltd., established in 1992, had three coupons in the flyer for its Island Princess products Mele Macs, Macadamia Popcorn Crunch and Wasabi Macadamia Nuts.
School Kine Cookies, established in 1984 by Virginia Sarono and Loretta Edmunds, has not been in retail stores since 1996, when the company was purchased by Steve and Sheila Gold. The Golds took the company in a different direction, focused on fundraising sales. They also sell online and have a small storefront retail operation in their Pearl City Industrial Park facilities.
The Golds were invited to the Costco table and have been in its Hawaii warehouse stores since July.
Evans "is really wonderful. He helped us design the packaging," Sheila said. "He was very patient with us."
Costco had specifications it needed met and worked with School Kine Cookies on the size, appearance and price of the two-pound jars it now sells. The Costco price is $9.55 and the Black Friday coupon was for $2 off. Online, the company sells a 9- or 10-ounce package for $6, plus shipping.
"When he placed the first order and we shipped it into them, of course we went to the store and took pictures of it," she laughed.
Costco sells one of School Kine's five flavors, the All Butter Cornflake Butter Crunch.
In preparation for the expected crush of shoppers, triple the regular amount was ordered "and they sold out by Saturday morning in some locations," Sheila said.
Expanding the product line at Hawaii Costco warehouses is an option, but the Golds are not in a rush. "We'll get through Christmas and then talk further," Sheila said.
Having the cookies in Costco has helped rather than hurt School Kine's core business, wholesaling for fundraising groups in Hawaii and on the mainland. The company also supports fundraising for individuals, such as sick children who need to travel for specialized medical care.
"We're actually doing more fundraising than we did last year," she said.
Getting School Kine Cookies into California Costco warehouses "would be nice," Sheila said. School Kine operates another baking facility there where cookies are sold by hula halau and other groups to raise funds -- and invariably, the company gets calls from schools also wanting to sell the cookies to make money.
Visitors to Hawaii who buy the cookies locally often call the company upon returning to the mainland to find out where they can buy more.
So how does a Hawaii company get its product sold at Costco?
First one has to sell Costco.
"We've been here since 1988, so over time, most of them have just made the phone call to pursue it, but we're always looking for new and exciting vendors," Evans said.
"Hawaii is very entrepreneurial. There are a lot of these small companies, small in the national sense ... that set up a meeting."
The review process entails different levels of the company including the regional office in Los Angeles, "but it'll be mostly done here," Evans said.
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Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com