Costco Sales Rise as Inflation Continues to Weigh on Consumers

Costco COST -1.20%

Wholesale Corp. higher sales in the latest quarter, the latest sign that the department store retailer remains a haven for consumers dealing with persistent inflation.

The Issaquah, Wash.-based company’s revenue rose 15% to $72.09 billion in the fourth quarter. The average estimate of analysts polled by FactSet was $72.04 billion.

Comparable sales, which are those from stores and digital channels that have been operating for at least 12 months, were up nearly 14% in the quarter compared to the same period last year. E-commerce sales rose 7.1% during the same period.

Costco, which specializes in selling discounted goods in bulk to paid-up members, benefited greatly during the Covid-19 pandemic as consumers bought in bulk to limit their trips outside, and demand was fueled by encouraging of the government.

The company remains very popular as inflation has reduced the spending power of consumers. The consumer price index, which measures what consumers pay for goods and services, increased by 8.3% in August compared to the period a year ago. The food index increased 11.4% over the past year, the largest 12-month increase since May 1979, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics said earlier this month.

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Costco posted net income of $1.87 billion, or $4.20 per share, for the quarter ended Aug. 28, up from net income of $1.67 billion, or $3.76 per share, a year earlier. Analysts polled by FactSet had expected $4.19 per share.

Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said the company currently has no specific plans for an increase in membership fees but noted that one will happen at some point. “We still have that arrow in our quiver as we go out,” Mr. Galanti said.

The decision stands in contrast to Walmart inc

moved in August to raise membership prices at the Sam’s Club chain to $50 from $45 for its basic offering and to $110 from $100 for its premium offering. The price hike is the chain’s first membership in nine years and the first for the premium offering since it debuted in 1999.

“We are cautious about the financial pressure on wallets right now,” Sam’s Club CEO Kathryn McLay said at the time.

Costco shares were down 2.6% in after-hours trading. The stock closed Thursday at $487.17, down 1.2%.

Costco is one of the largest and most successful retailers in the country. In this video, WSJ’s Sarah Nassauer explores the wholesaler’s unique approach to doing business. Photo: Qian Weizhong/Zuma Press

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