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Costco raises profits, membership fees

BY Gail Hoffer

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Costco membership seems to defy current consumer trends as the warehouse club announced Wednesday that it would raise its annual membership fees as it reported increases in fourth-quarter sales and earnings.

The company announced that effective Nov. 1, it will increase annual membership fees by $5 for U.S. goldstar (individual), business, business add-on and Canada business members. With this increase, all U.S. and Canada goldstar, business and business add-on members will pay an annual fee of $55. Also effective Nov. 1, U.S. and Canada executive membership annual fees will increase from $100 to $110, and the maximum 2% reward associated with executive membership will increase from $500 to $750. The fee increases will impact a little over 22 million members, roughly half of which are executive members.

For the fourth quarter, Costco reported net sales were $27.6 billion, an increase of 17% from $23.6 billion in the 16-week fourth quarter of fiscal 2010 ended Aug. 29, 2010. This year’s 16-week period included sales from the company’s Mexico joint venture; otherwise, the increase would have been 14%, the company said.

Total U.S. same-store sales for the fourth quarter were up 10%. Excluding fuel, U.S. comps rose 6%. Internationally, same-store sales were up 19%, 10% excluding fuel. Total same-store sales rose 12%, 7% excluding fuel.

Net income for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2011 was $478 million, or $1.08 per diluted share, compared with $432 million, or 97 cents per diluted share, during the fourth quarter of fiscal 2010.

Costco currently operates 592 warehouses, including 429 in the United States and Puerto Rico, 82 in Canada, 32 in Mexico, 22 in the United Kingdom, nine in Japan, eight in Taiwan, seven in Korea, and three in Australia.

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Motley Fool: Building charging stations at the drug store? ‘Brilliant’

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — The Motley Fool on Tuesday published an article heralding Walgreens’ foresight in building charging stations for electric vehicles at its stores.

"Admittedly, the thought of charging a car at Walgreens sounds ridiculous to me," Motley Fool analyst Aimee Duffy said. "[But] when the 800 stations are completed at the end of the year, Walgreens will own 40% of the charging stations in the country. That puts the company in an excellent position to not only dominate market share but to establish itself as the go-to brand for electric charging."

Duffy added, "Once you look at the numbers, though, ridiculous suddenly seems brilliant."

According to the report, the National Academies predicted that 13 million to 40 million electric vehicles will be on the road by 2030.

For the full story, click here.

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L’eggs partners with Dress for Success

BY Allison Cerra

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A hosiery brand has teamed up with a not-for-profit organization that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women.

L’eggs said that its new partnership with Dress for Success will be highlighted with a Facebook promotion, through which L’eggs will donate 12,000 pairs of legwear to Dress for Success through a virtual legwear drive.

"We think this partnership with Dress for Success is a perfect marriage of our brand’s vision and what it means to help women feel and look good from the inside out," said Angela Hawkins, director and general manager of legwear at HanesBrands, which owns the L’eggs brand. "We also will post Dress for Success’ monthly featured success story on our Facebook page. We feel sharing the success stories of women who have taken control of their destiny will inspire others to do the same."

The promotion kicked off last month. For more information, click here.

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