Calif. Strike Boosts Costco Earnings

ISSAQUAH, Wash. - Costco Wholesale Corp. on Wednesday reported higher quarterly profit and attributed its sales boost in part to the recent labor disputes at grocery stores in California.

The largest U.S. warehouse club operator said its earnings rose to $226.8 million, or 48 cents per share, in the second quarter ended Feb. 15 from $182.1 million, or 39 cents per share, including a 3 cent after-tax charge a year ago.

Quarterly sales jumped 14 percent to $11.33 billion in the second quarter from $9.92 billion a year ago. Same-store sales rose 11 percent.

The retailer has said that the recently resolved strikes and lockouts at three southern California grocery chains helped its food sales as shoppers went to Costco to avoid crossing picket lines elsewhere.

Some analysts told Reuters that sales might suffer now that the labor disputes have been settled, but others contend that Costco's selection of gourmet food will help it keep many of those new customers.

Costco also benefited from a weak dollar that inflated results from its 113 foreign stores. Steep gasoline prices helped too, as more people filled up at Costco's low-priced gas stations.
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