Costco Interested in Opening European Stores, Murphy Says

Costco Wholesale Corp., the operator of membership warehouses for consumer goods, is looking into opening stores in continental Europe, said James P. Murphy, international executive vice president.

“We are interested in investing in the obvious four -- Germany, Italy, France and Spain,” Murphy said in an interview at a consumer goods forum in Istanbul today. The company hasn’t decided which country may be first and will probably open a store in the region “in the next couple of years,” he said.

The retailer is “seeing some reductions in expensive real estate” in Europe, Murphy said. Weakened demand and austerity measures are a concern there, he said.

Costco, which is adding more pharmacies and vision centers to lure customers to its stores, this month said it would buy out the partner in its Mexican joint venture for 10.65 billion pesos ($765 million.) The retailer would gain a 50 percent stake in Costco de Mexico and the power to expand in the nation, where it has 32 stores and unit growth has stagnated.

Costco is also considering opening stores in Turkey, Murphy said.

“It’s a fabulous market with great potential,” he said. “We’re prioritizing markets, but it’s not in the top 10.”

Costco fell 1.2 percent to $90.40 at the close in New York. The Issaquah, Washington-based company has gained 8.5 percent this year.

Costco operates more than 600 warehouses worldwide, including about 435 in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and 22 in the U.K.

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