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Costco Wholesale Corporation

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2019 Vault Rankings

At a Glance

Uppers

The largest wholesale club--ahead of Walmart’s Sam’s Club

The company has continued growing throughout the recession

Excellent pay and benefits for workers has led to lower ratios of employee turnover and employee theft.

Downers

Intense competition from Sam’s Club, BJ’s Wholesale Club and other retailers

Lower than ideal profit margins that makes some shareholders nervous

The Bottom Line

Costco Wholesale is the industry leader and is well-positioned to continue in that position, even during a period of economic malaise. Its customers generally are financially stable, and company leaders usually make the right moves. Morgan Stanley calls it a "solid defensive stock," a claim that not many other retailers can make these days.

About Costco Wholesale Corporation

Operating more than 760 membership warehouse stores, Costco is the nation's largest wholesale club operator (ahead of Wal-Mart's SAM'S CLUB). Primarily under the Costco Wholesale banner, it serves nearly 95 million cardholders in some 45 US states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico, and about 10 other countries. Stores offer discount prices on some 3,700 products (many in bulk packaging), ranging from alcoholic beverages and appliances to fresh food, pharmaceuticals, and tires. Certain club memberships also offer products and services, such as car and home insurance, real estate services, and travel packages. Costco generates most of its sales in the US.

Operations

Costco generates revenue from five major product categories: food & sundries, hardlines, fresh food, softlines, and ancillary. It generates about 40% of its revenue from food & sundries, which includes dry and packaged foods, groceries, snacks, candy, alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, and cleaning supplies. Another 15% each stem from hardlines (major appliances, electronics, hardware, garden & patio items) and fresh foods (meat, produce, deli, bakery). Softline product sales (apparel and small appliances) account for about 10% of sales, with the ancillary gas and pharmacy operations bringing in the last 20%.

To shop at Costco, customers must be members -- a policy the company believes reinforces customer loyalty and provides a steady source of fee revenue (to the tune of about 2% of yearly sales). Three types of annual memberships are available: Business ($60 each), Gold Star ($60, for individuals and their spouses), and Executive ($120, allows members to purchase products and services, including insurance, mortgage services, and long-distance phone service, at reduced rates). Costco also operates the e-commerce site costco.com, which offers products not found in its stores.

Geographic Reach

More than 70% of Costco's revenues come from the US, while about 15% stem from Canada. The majority of its stores are located in the US and Puerto Rico, although about 100 are in Canada. Other markets include Mexico, the UK, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Australia, France, Iceland, and Spain. Costco operates in Taiwan and Korea through majority-owned subsidiaries.

Sales and Marketing

Costco uses several marketing and promotional tactics to reach existing and prospective members. It typically promotes new warehouse openings, sends direct mail pieces to potential new members, and employs a regular direct-marketing program. The program, which targets existing members to promote selected merchandise, consists of The Costco Connection magazine, coupon mailers, handouts, and promotional emails to members.

The company sells products in China through Alibaba's Tmall site. Other e-commerce businesses, such as Google Express, Instacart, and Jet.com, offer Costco products for delivery via their online services.

Financial Performance

Costco's revenues and profits have seen robust growth over the past several years as the company has expanded its store count and in-store amenities. Revenue is up 25% since fiscal 2014 (ended August) and net income is up more than 50%. 

In fiscal 2018 the company reported revenue of $142 billion, up 10% from the prior year, driven by sales at newly opened warehouses and a 9% spike in comparable sales. Changes in gasoline prices contributed positively thanks to a 19% increase in the average sales price per gallon. In addition, membership fees increased by 10% in 2018 due to membership sign-ups at existing and new warehouses and an annual fee increase.

Net income that year jumped 17% to $3.1 billion, primarily due to the higher revenues, as well as a jump in interest income.

Cash at the end of fiscal 2018 was $6 billion, an increase of about $1.5 billion from the prior year. Cash from operations contributed $5.8 billion to the coffers, while investing activities used $2.9 billion, mainly for property and equipment. Financing activities used another $1.3 billion, primarily for stock buyback and dividends paid.

Strategy

Costco aims to offer its members a broad range of high-quality merchandise at consistently lower prices than they can find elsewhere. To keep inventory costs low, its merchandising strategy is to limit certain items to fast-selling models, sizes, and colors. By doing this, Costco can limit its number of stock keeping units (SKUs) to about 3,700 per warehouse, enabling it to hold significantly fewer items than other discount retailers, supermarkets, and supercenters. Its product lines are not static however, as it continues to expand its own Kirkland Signature brand (which grew more than 10% in fiscal 2018).

Along with merchandise management, Costco is focused on expansion. It has opened more than 100 new wholesale clubs in the last five years and has plans for about 25 new locations in 2019, including its first store in China. In addition, the company has plans to relocate four warehouses in 2019 to more ideal spots within existing markets, and it continues to add gas stations and other ancillary services to existing locations.

As is the case with many retailers, the warehouse giant is also investing in digital initiatives as consumer preferences and technological advancements alter the landscape. The company's ecommerce sales jumped more than 30% in fiscal 2018 amid improved online ordering capabilities, ecommerce product showcases, and grocery delivery. Continued focus on digital/tech initiatives is key for Costco as the competition is intense from traditional warehouse clubs and grocery stores, as well as discount grocers such as Aldi, and, of course, from online behemoth Amazon.

Company Background

In 1983 the first Costco warehouse location was opened in Seattle; it went public in 1985. 

A decade after the opening of that first club, Costco merged with a rival chain (Price Club) to form Price/Costco. It eventually changed its name to Costco later that decade.

Price Club's first location opened in 1976 in a converted airplane hangar in San Diego. It originally served only small businesses, but soon found its engine for growth by serving non-business members as well.

 

Costco Wholesale Corporation

999 LAKE DR
Issaquah, WA 98027-5367
Phone: 1 (425) 313-8100

Stats

Employer Type: Publicly Owned
Stock Symbol: COST
Stock Exchange: , NASDAQ
SVP Operations: Roger A. Campbell
EVP and CFO: Richard A. Galanti
President and CEO: W. Craig Jelinek
Employees (This Location): 2,100
Employees (All Locations): 245,000

Major Office Locations

Issaquah, WA

Other Locations

Anchorage, AK
Juneau, AK
Hoover, AL
Huntsville, AL
Montgomery, AL
Avondale, AZ
Chandler, AZ
Gilbert, AZ
Glendale, AZ
Mesa, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Prescott, AZ
Scottsdale, AZ
Tempe, AZ
Tolleson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Alhambra, CA
Antioch, CA
Azusa, CA
Bakersfield, CA
Burbank, CA
Canoga Park, CA
Canyon Country, CA
Carlsbad, CA
Chico, CA
Chino Hills, CA
Chula Vista, CA
Citrus Heights, CA
City Of Industry, CA
Clovis, CA
Commerce, CA
Concord, CA
Corona, CA
Cotati, CA
Cypress, CA
Danville, CA
El Centro, CA
Eureka, CA
Fairfield, CA
Folsom, CA
Fontana, CA
Foster City, CA
Fountain Valley, CA
Fremont, CA
Fresno, CA
Fullerton, CA
Garden Grove, CA
Gilroy, CA
Goleta, CA
Hawthorne, CA
Hayward, CA
Huntington Beach, CA
Inglewood, CA
Irvine, CA
Laguna Niguel, CA
La Habra, CA
Lake Elsinore, CA
Lakewood, CA
La Mesa, CA
Lancaster, CA
La Quinta, CA
Livermore, CA
Lodi, CA
Los Angeles, CA
Manteca, CA
Marina Del Rey, CA
Merced, CA
Mira Loma, CA
Mission Viejo, CA
Modesto, CA
Montclair, CA
Montebello, CA
Moreno Valley, CA
Mountain View, CA
National City, CA
North Hollywood, CA
Northridge, CA
Norwalk, CA
Novato, CA
Oxnard, CA
Pacoima, CA
Palm Desert, CA
Poway, CA
Rancho Cordova, CA
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Redding, CA
Redwood City, CA
Richmond, CA
Rohnert Park, CA
Roseville, CA
Sacramento, CA
Salinas, CA
San Bernardino, CA
Sand City, CA
San Diego, CA
San Dimas, CA
San Francisco, CA
San Jose, CA
San Juan Capistrano, CA
San Leandro, CA
San Luis Obispo, CA
San Marcos, CA
Santa Clara, CA
Santa Clarita, CA
Santa Cruz, CA
Santa Maria, CA
Santa Rosa, CA
Santee, CA
Signal Hill, CA
Simi Valley, CA
South San Francisco, CA
Stockton, CA
Sunnyvale, CA
Temecula, CA
Torrance, CA
Tracy, CA
Turlock, CA
Tustin, CA
Vacaville, CA
Vallejo, CA
Van Nuys, CA
Victorville, CA
Visalia, CA
Vista, CA
Westlake Village, CA
Woodland, CA
Yorba Linda, CA
Arvada, CO
Aurora, CO
Colorado Springs, CO
Englewood, CO
Gypsum, CO
Littleton, CO
Parker, CO
Superior, CO
Thornton, CO
Westminster, CO
Brookfield, CT
Enfield, CT
Milford, CT
New Britain, CT
Norwalk, CT
Waterbury, CT
Newark, DE
Altamonte Springs, FL
Boca Raton, FL
Brandon, FL
Clearwater, FL
Davie, FL
Doral, FL
Fort Myers, FL
Jacksonville, FL
Lantana, FL
Lutz, FL
Miami, FL
Miami Lakes, FL
Naples, FL
North Miami, FL
Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Pembroke Pines, FL
Pompano Beach, FL
Royal Palm Beach, FL
Sarasota, FL
Tallahassee, FL
West Palm Beach, FL
Winter Park, FL
Winter Springs, FL
Alpharetta, GA
Atlanta, GA
Augusta, GA
Brookhaven, GA
Buford, GA
Cumming, GA
Duluth, GA
Kennesaw, GA
Morrow, GA
Ringgold, GA
Honolulu, HI
Kahului, HI
Kailua Kona, HI
Kapolei, HI
Lihue, HI
Waipahu, HI
Coralville, IA
West Des Moines, IA
Boise, ID
Coeur D Alene, ID
Nampa, ID
Pocatello, ID
Twin Falls, ID
Bolingbrook, IL
Chicago, IL
East Peoria, IL
Glenview, IL
Lake In The Hills, IL
Lake Zurich, IL
Melrose Park, IL
Mettawa, IL
Morris, IL
Mount Prospect, IL
Naperville, IL
Niles, IL
North Riverside, IL
Oak Brook, IL
Orland Park, IL
Saint Charles, IL
Schaumburg, IL
Fort Wayne, IN
Granger, IN
Indianapolis, IN
Merrillville, IN
Overland Park, KS
Shawnee Mission, KS
Wichita, KS
Florence, KY
Louisville, KY
Baton Rouge, LA
New Orleans, LA
Avon, MA
Danvers, MA
Dedham, MA
Everett, MA
Waltham, MA
West Springfield, MA
Baltimore, MD
Beltsville, MD
Brandywine, MD
Elkridge, MD
Frederick, MD
Gaithersburg, MD
Glenarden, MD
Glen Burnie, MD
Hanover, MD
Monrovia, MD
Wheaton, MD
Ann Arbor, MI
Auburn Hills, MI
Bloomfield Hills, MI
Brighton, MI
Commerce Township, MI
East Lansing, MI
Grand Rapids, MI
Kalamazoo, MI
Livonia, MI
Madison Heights, MI
Roseville, MI
Shelby Township, MI
Van Buren Twp, MI
Wyoming, MI
Baxter, MN
Burnsville, MN
Eden Prairie, MN
Maple Grove, MN
Maplewood, MN
Minneapolis, MN
Independence, MO
Kansas City, MO
Manchester, MO
Saint Louis, MO
Saint Peters, MO
Billings, MT
Bozeman, MT
Helena, MT
Kalispell, MT
Missoula, MT
Apex, NC
Charlotte, NC
Durham, NC
Greensboro, NC
Matthews, NC
Raleigh, NC
Wilmington, NC
Winston Salem, NC
La Vista, NE
Lincoln, NE
Nashua, NH
Brick, NJ
Bridgewater, NJ
Clifton, NJ
East Hanover, NJ
Edison, NJ
Hazlet, NJ
Jamesburg, NJ
Lawrence Township, NJ
Manahawkin, NJ
Monroe Township, NJ
Morganville, NJ
Mount Laurel, NJ
North Plainfield, NJ
Ocean, NJ
Sayreville, NJ
Teterboro, NJ
Union, NJ
Wayne, NJ
Wharton, NJ
Albuquerque, NM
Carson City, NV
Henderson, NV
Las Vegas, NV
Reno, NV
Sparks, NV
Brooklyn, NY
Camillus, NY
Commack, NY
Holbrook, NY
Lawrence, NY
Long Island City, NY
Melville, NY
Nanuet, NY
Nesconset, NY
New Rochelle, NY
New York, NY
Port Chester, NY
Rego Park, NY
Riverhead, NY
Rochester, NY
Staten Island, NY
Westbury, NY
Yonkers, NY
Avon, OH
Cincinnati, OH
Cleveland, OH
Columbus, OH
Dayton, OH
Hudson, OH
Perrysburg, OH
Plain City, OH
Strongsville, OH
Toledo, OH
Tulsa, OK
Albany, OR
Beaverton, OR
Bend, OR
Central Point, OR
Clackamas, OR
Eugene, OR
Hillsboro, OR
Portland, OR
Roseburg, OR
Salem, OR
Tigard, OR
Warrenton, OR
Wilsonville, OR
Allentown, PA
Cranberry Township, PA
Glen Mills, PA
Harrisburg, PA
King Of Prussia, PA
Lancaster, PA
North Wales, PA
Pittsburgh, PA
Pottstown, PA
Warminster, PA
West Homestead, PA
San Juan, PR
Charleston, SC
Columbia, SC
Greenville, SC
Myrtle Beach, SC
Spartanburg, SC
Sioux Falls, SD
Brentwood, TN
Cordova, TN
Knoxville, TN
Memphis, TN
Nashville, TN
Arlington, TX
Austin, TX
Cedar Park, TX
Dallas, TX
Duncanville, TX
El Paso, TX
Fort Worth, TX
Frisco, TX
Greenville, TX
Houston, TX
Katy, TX
Lewisville, TX
Pearland, TX
Pharr, TX
Plano, TX
Rockwall, TX
San Antonio, TX
Selma, TX
Southlake, TX
The Woodlands, TX
Bountiful, UT
Lehi, UT
Ogden, UT
Orem, UT
Salt Lake City, UT
Sandy, UT
South Jordan, UT
Spanish Fork, UT
St George, UT
West Bountiful, UT
Alexandria, VA
Arlington, VA
Chantilly, VA
Charlottesville, VA
Fairfax, VA
Fredericksburg, VA
Glen Allen, VA
Harrisonburg, VA
Leesburg, VA
Newport News, VA
Norfolk, VA
North Chesterfield, VA
Springfield, VA
Sterling, VA
Winchester, VA
Woodbridge, VA
Colchester, VT
Auburn, WA
Bellingham, WA
Burlington, WA
Clarkston, WA
Covington, WA
Cypress, WA
East Lansing, WA
East Wenatchee, WA
Everett, WA
Federal Way, WA
Fife, WA
Gig Harbor, WA
Issaquah, WA
Jacksonville, WA
Kennewick, WA
Kirkland, WA
Lacey, WA
La Quinta, WA
Lynnwood, WA
Marysville, WA
Puyallup, WA
Redmond, WA
Rockwall, WA
Saint Paul, WA
San Jose, WA
Seattle, WA
Sequim, WA
Shoreline, WA
Silverdale, WA
South San Francisco, WA
Spokane, WA
Spokane Valley, WA
Sumner, WA
Tacoma, WA
Traverse City, WA
Tukwila, WA
Tumwater, WA
Union Gap, WA
Vancouver, WA
Woodinville, WA
Yakima, WA
Grafton, WI
Grand Chute, WI
Green Bay, WI
Middleton, WI
Pewaukee, WI
Pleasant Prairie, WI
Sun Prairie, WI
Amagasaki, Japan
Chiba, Japan
Hamamatsu, Japan
Hashima, Japan
Hiroshima, Japan
Hitachinaka, Japan
Imizu, Japan
Inzai, Japan
Iruma, Japan
Izumi, Japan
Kaminoyama, Japan
Kasuya-Gun, Japan
Kitakyushu, Japan
Kobe, Japan
Machida, Japan
Maebashi, Japan
Misato, Japan
Nonoichi, Japan
Sapporo, Japan
Tokoname, Japan
Tomiya, Japan
Tsukuba, Japan
Yawata, Japan
Yokohama, Japan
Zama, Japan
Cardiff, Wales
Abbotsford, Canada
Airdrie, Canada
Ajax, Canada
Ancaster, Canada
Anjou, Canada
Barrie, Canada
Boisbriand, Canada
Boucherville, Canada
Brampton, Canada
Brossard, Canada
Burlington, Canada
Burnaby, Canada
Calgary, Canada
Candiac, Canada
Chicoutimi, Canada
Concord, Canada
Courtenay, Canada
Dartmouth, Canada
Drummondville, Canada
East Gwillimbury, Canada
Edmonton, Canada
Etobicoke, Canada
Fredericton, Canada
Gatineau, Canada
Gloucester, Canada
Grande Prairie, Canada
Guelph, Canada
Halifax, Canada
Kamloops, Canada
Kanata, Canada
Kelowna, Canada
Kingston, Canada
Kitchener, Canada
Langley, Canada
Lethbridge, Canada
London, Canada
Lévis, Canada
Markham, Canada
Medicine Hat, Canada
Mississauga, Canada
Moncton, Canada
Montréal, Canada
Montreal, Canada
Nanaimo, Canada
Nepean, Canada
North York, Canada
Okotoks, Canada
Orillia, Canada
Oshawa, Canada
Peterborough, Canada
Pointe-Claire, Canada
Port Coquitlam, Canada
Prince George, Canada
Québec, Canada
Red Deer County, Canada
Regina, Canada
Richmond, Canada
Richmond Hill, Canada
Rocky View County, Canada
Saint-Hubert, Canada
Saint John, Canada
Saint-Jérôme, Canada
Saskatoon, Canada
Scarborough, Canada
Sherbrooke, Canada
Sherwood Park, Canada
St. Albert, Canada
St Catharines, Canada
St. John'S, Canada
Stoney Creek, Canada
Sudbury, Canada
Surrey, Canada
Terrebonne, Canada
Trois-Rivières, Canada
Vancouver, Canada
Victoria, Canada
Windsor, Canada
Winnipeg, Canada
Woodbridge, Canada
Hsinchu City, Taiwan
Kaohsiung City, Taiwan
New Taipei City, Taiwan
Tainan City, Taiwan
Taipei City, Taiwan
Birmingham, England
Chester, England
Derby, England
Gateshead, England
Grays, England
Leeds, England
Liverpool, England
London, England
Lutterworth, England
Manchester, England
Milton Keynes, England
Oldham, England
Reading, England
Sheffield, England
Glasgow, Scotland
Loanhead, Scotland
Westhill, Scotland