Costco Profit Tops Estimates as Low Prices Boost Sales

Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Bloomberg's Scarlet Fu reports that Costco Wholesale Corp. posted fiscal first-quarter profit that topped analysts’ estimates as its focus on low prices lured customers who paid higher membership fees. She speaks on Bloomberg Television's "Bloomberg Surveillance."

Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST), the largest U.S. warehouse-club chain, posted fiscal first-quarter profit that topped analysts’ estimates as its focus on low prices lured consumers.

Net income in the quarter ended Nov. 25 rose 30 percent to $416 million, or 95 cents a share, from $320 million, or 73 cents, a year earlier, the Issaquah, Washington-based company said today in a statement. Analysts projected 93 cents, the average of 22 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Chief Executive Officer Craig Jelinek has been keeping prices low to increase store visits while the U.S. unemployment rate stays stuck around 8 percent. Comparable-store sales in the quarter advanced 6 percent, excluding changes in gas prices and foreign-currency exchange rates.

“It was another solid quarter,” Brian Yarbrough, an analyst for Edward Jones & Co. in St. Louis, said in an interview. “They continue to drive people into their stores and are converting that traffic growth into sales.”

Costco fell 0.6 percent to $97.72 at the close in New York. The shares have added 17 percent this year.

Revenue from membership fees advanced 14 percent to $511 million, the company said. Last year’s fee increases haven’t had any impact on memberships as renewal rates were 86 percent during the quarter, Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said on a call with analysts. The rate was 85 percent in the same period a year earlier.

Net sales last quarter rose 9.6 percent to $23.2 billion.

Costco expects inflation to be tame in the next nine months with the exception of fresh food, beef and poultry, Galanti said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matt Townsend in New York at mtownsend9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Ajello at rajello@bloomberg.net

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.