Today, Shopping focuses on the granddaddy of membership stores, Fedco, which has one county store, on Harbor Boulevard in Costa Mesa. Started in the late 1940s by federal workers, Fedco was the first membership discount store in the state and the only one until 1976, when the Price Club opened. Fedco is still the only one of its kind in many respects: It offers lifetime memberships rather than annual; its buildings are stores, rather than warehouses, and Fedco carries a wider variety of merchandise than most of the warehouses.
While Fedco does have the quantity and variety of Sears, it doesn't have as polished a look. Another difference between Fedco and Sears is that Fedco carries name brands, while Sears carries primarily its own label, Kenmore. Next Friday: A look at the increasingly competitive field of warehouse clubs in the county, where Price Clubs used to reign unchallenged.
COMPARING PRICES AT SEARS, FEDCO Although Fedco considers itself unique, it is most similar to Sears, according to [Philip Jick], vice president. Last week, the Shopping column compared prices on a small selection of merchandise at the Fedco at 3030 Harbor Blvd. in Costa Mesa and at Sears, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa. The comparison is not definitive as, in most merchandise, Sears sells its own brands, whereas Fedco sells national brands. When possible, identical brands were compared. In general, both stores carry national brands of toiletries.