Some Floridians are willing to drive to Costo locations that aren't exactly convenient. There is a 2022 forum thread from The Villages that discusses driving to Wesley Chapel, which is about an hour.
As inconvenient as that drive is, at least there is a Costco available, and now with the Clermont store opening, The Villages does have a true "Costco desert." But there is one city that feels that it does. This article will discuss that city as well as how Costco determines where to put its stores.
What Does Costco Look For When Deciding On Markets To Place New Stores?: According to WJHL reporting in early 2020, Costco looks for cities with a population of a minimum of 250,000 people within the "trade area." According to The Hanford Sentinel, Costco's term "trade area" means the geographical area from which Costco can draw customers.
According to The Independent Florida Alligator, Costco also seeks out more affluent cities. According to the publication's analysis, the average income of the Florida cities that contain a Costco is $69,592. That may be one reason why one Florida city has been called a "Costco desert."
The "Costco Desert" In A Florida College Town: Gainesville, Florida is in the north-central part of the state. It is home to the University of Florida and Santa Fe Community College and has a population of around 145,000 and a median income of just over $40,000, according to the Census Bureau.
According to the Independent Florida Alligator, if Gainesville residents want to shop at a Costco, they must drive two hours to Jacksonville or two hours to Orlando.
The publication reports that Butler Enterprises approached Costco about putting a store in the Gainesville market, but the offer was denied, as Costco reportedly said that Gainesville "was not the store's market."
Joel Davis, UF Warrington College of Business clinical professor, told The Independent Alligator that the economic makeup of Gainesville, which has many student residents, may be a factor, explaining:
“I think that the economics of Gainesville does present a bit of a challenge for Costco."
A social media thread that posed the question of whether Gainesville would ever get a Costco received many responses expressing wishes for a Costco but also doubts that one would be possible.
Ocala residents have also expressed the desire for a Costco. In a letter to the editor at Ocala News in November of 2023, a writer named Brian said he would happily drive to Gainesville to shop at Costco.
The population of Ocala is around 65,000, according to the Census Bureau. Adding the populations of Ocala and Gainesville together approaches the 250,000 threshold of "trade area," but does not quite reach it.
The author is not affiliated with Costco or any other retailers.