Costco Wholesale Reports Strong Sales Growth as It Streamlines Operations
At a Glance
- Costco demonstrated resilience and achieved significant milestones despite various challenges in the retail industry
- Net sales for the third quarter reached $52.6 billion
- Costco's membership fee income experienced significant growth, reaching $1.44 billion
- With 26 openings planned for the fiscal year, the company remains dedicated to expanding its presence and providing convenient access to its offerings
In the third quarter of fiscal 2023, Costco Wholesale Corporation demonstrated resilience and achieved significant milestones despite various challenges in the retail industry. Net sales for the quarter reached $52.6 billion, marking a 1.9% increase compared to $51.61 billion in the previous year's third quarter. The company focuses on providing high-quality goods at the lowest prices, which attracts a large customer base and sets Costco apart from traditional retailers.
Costco's membership fee income experienced significant growth, reaching $1.44 billion, a 6.1% increase compared to the previous year. The company continued to witness strong membership growth, ending the quarter with 69.1 million paid household members and 124.7 million cardholders, reflecting a 7% increase from the previous year. Furthermore, executive members accounted for more than 45% of paid members and approximately 73% of worldwide sales.
Costco recognizes the potential of target marketing and personalization as areas for growth and plans to invest in these aspects. While the company views online buying and in-store pickup as more costly than beneficial, it aims to drive business through other means, such as improving online sales and merchandising. “I think we are getting better on the technology side, playing from behind a little bit on that,” said Costco’s CFO, Richard Galanti. “But I think we've finally got a game plan and some people that are helping build those areas up both from a marketing and advertising standpoint, taking advantage of the advertising dollars that are out there that we've done pretty well despite ourselves, but we know we can do a lot better in grabbing some of those dollars.”
Costco has hired new executives and is working on a two-year roadmap to enhance its e-commerce website and mobile apps. Incremental changes and ongoing improvements are being made, focusing on better personalization and reduced email frequency. The company acknowledges the importance of technology in driving growth and anticipates reporting more progress in the future.
The company reported a net income of $1.30 billion, or $2.93 per diluted share, compared to $1.35 billion, or $3.04 per diluted share, in the same period last year. This year's results included a one-time charge of $298 million for discontinuing charter shipping activities, while last year's results included a non-recurring charge of $77 million for incremental employee benefits. One of the key highlights of the quarter was the decision to discontinue charter shipping activities altogether. Costco had initially leased ships and containers to address overseas freight challenges. However, with the significant improvement in shipping and freight markets, the company reevaluated its position. It concluded that discontinuing these activities would allow it to take full advantage of current shipping market rates and lower prices for members.
Costco also made notable progress in its warehouse expansion efforts, opening five new locations in the quarter, including two buildings in the U.S. and one each in Japan and China. With 26 openings planned for the fiscal year, the company remains dedicated to expanding its presence and providing convenient access to its offerings.
Gross margin for the quarter improved by 13 basis points on a reported basis, coming in at 10.32%, while excluding gas deflation, it decreased by three basis points. Core merchandise margin showed positive growth, with an increase of 39 basis points on a reported basis and 24 basis points excluding gas deflation. Ancillary and other businesses contributed to the positive gross margin performance, with a 13% increase.
Despite the decreasing sales growth, Costco demonstrated its commitment to employee investment. Although core operations in the third quarter experienced a negative impact due to slower sales growth and certain wage increases, the company maintained its focus on supporting its workforce. Costco supports its employees by providing competitive wages, comprehensive benefits, career advancement opportunities, employee support programs, and fostering a positive work environment.
Looking ahead, Costco anticipates continued improvements in inflation, with year-over-year estimates in the range of 3% to 4%. The company's inventory levels have remained stable, demonstrating efficient management and positioning for future growth.
Costco's strong sales growth, strategic decision-making, and ongoing commitment to its members and employees have contributed to its success in the third quarter of fiscal 2023. As the company moves forward, it aims to leverage favorable market conditions, streamline operations, and uphold its reputation as a leading wholesale retailer.