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Easter Timing Helps Fuel Sales at Costco

Net sales rise 9.4% YoY, while holiday drives more traffic
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Fresh foods were strong sellers at Costco in March, the club operator reported.

The fact that Easter was on the last day of March this year gave a bit of a bump to Costco Wholesale Corp., which reported that the holiday positively impacted total and comparable sales by half percent or so. 

Net sales came in at $23.48 billion during the month, a 9.4% year-over-year increase. U.S. comp sales were up 7.3%, while comps excluding the impact from changes in gas prices and foreign exchanges were on a similar upward track of 7.4%. E-commerce did well during the five-week period too, increasing 28.3%. 

For the first 31 weeks of Costco's fiscal year, sales are likewise in positive territory, up 6.4% from the same period last year to hit $146.64 billion.

During the company’s monthly results call, David Sherwood, Costco’s VP of finance and investor relations, said the Easter shift from April to March this year brought more shoppers into the store. “Our traffic was up 7.2% worldwide and 6.9% in the U.S.,” he said. The regions of the Midwest, Northwest and Texas performed especially well last month, Sherwood added.

The holiday and start of spring propelled higher food sales, according to Sherwood. Food was one of the strongest categories across the clubs in March, with sales comps in the mid to high single digits. Within food, fresh food, bakery and meat were top-performing departments.

[RELATED: Costco Winning Members Over With Cookies and Gold]

On the heels of Costco’s monthly results, Phillip Blee, an analyst with investment banking and financial services company William Blair, raised his outlook for the warehouse operator. According to Blee, robust e-comm results and sales are signs of strength for the months ahead. “We are also encouraged by the inflection in average ticket growth, which should go a long way to help ease investor concerns around deflationary pressures. We believe Costco’s leading value proposition centered on low prices, high quality products, and its private label brand should fuel ongoing momentum in traffic as consumers continue to seek opportunities for savings,” he declared. 

Costco will report third fiscal quarter earnings on May 30. 

Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco currently operates more than 870 warehouses, including 600-plus in the United States and Puerto Rico and 108 in Canada, and is No. 3 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. PG also named Costco among its Retailers of the Century.

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