Costco February sales beat analyst estimates

Club retailer could see intensified competition in Canada due to Target's expansion, Heinbockel says

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Costco Wholesale Corp.'s sales increased 8% to $7.58 billion in February, the club retailer said Thursday.

For the 26-week period that ended Sunday, the chain reported sales of $51.35 billion, a 9% increase over February 2012. Comps for the company's U.S. stores increased 6% during the month and also during the past 26-week period.

For the second quarter and first half of fiscal year 2013, the company reported that sales increased by 8%, to $24.34 billion and by 9%, to $47.55 billion, respectively. Comps during those two periods increased by 5% and 6%, respectively.

"Amidst all of the hand-wringing about a challenged consumer in February, Costco delivered a strong, above-consensus 6% comp gain, which we believe is the product of both terrific product quality and unquestioned value," Guggenheim Partners analyst John Heinbockel wrote in a note to investors, adding that Guggenheim remained concerned with Wall Street estimates of the company's earnings per share in the second half of 2013 might be too high due to price investments in the United States, Canada and new club expansion costs in Asia. In addition, Heinbockel wrote, Costco's 85 Canadian stores could face intensified competition as Target expands its reach in the country.

Fresh food and soft lines were the leading product categories, with same-store sales in the high single digits, while U.S. regions with the strongest results were Texas, the Southeast, the Northeast and the Midwest.

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