COSTCO CHANGING NAME OF PRICE/COSTCO UNITS

ISSAQUAH, Wash. -- Costco Cos. here is in the process of changing the names on its Price/Costco stores to Costco. changed to Price/Costco after being acquired by Costco three years ago."When Price and Costco merged, we continued to maintain separate names on the buildings, although we recognized that at some point we would want to operate under a single name," Galanti said."At the time of the merger

ISSAQUAH, Wash. -- Costco Cos. here is in the process of changing the names on its Price/Costco stores to Costco.

changed to Price/Costco after being acquired by Costco three years ago.

"When Price and Costco merged, we continued to maintain separate names on the buildings, although we recognized that at some point we would want to operate under a single name," Galanti said.

"At the time of the merger there were 90 Price Clubs and 105 Costcos in the United States and Canada, but most of the stores we've opened since then have been under the Costco name, and approximately two-thirds of our 250 North American stores now carry the Costco name."

Costco began converting Price/Costco stores in the Southwest (Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico) to the Costco banner late last year "as a test to see if the change had any negative impact, but sales have continued strong, and the name has not been an issue," Galanti said. Conversions of stores in northern California have been completed, he said, and most of the West and East Coast stores where the Price/Costco name is predominant should be completed by late spring, Galanti added.

He said changing the names involves simply repainting signs on the stores' exteriors, "at an average cost of less than $1,000 per location."

Galanti said the company has also changed its corporate name from Price/Costco to Costco Cos., although it will continue to maintain two operating entities -- Costco Wholesale and Price/Costco -- "for tax, licensing and other purposes," Galanti noted.

Costco's stores in eastern Canada are called Club Price, and its 13 stores in Mexico operate under the Price Club name, "and we are evaluating what to do with the names in those locations," Galanti said. The company also has an agreement in Seoul, Korea, that licenses the Price Club name, he added.

According to Galanti, 232 of Costco's 250 North American locations have fresh food sections, including produce, meat, deli and bakery.

"Our fresh selection is a signature quality area for Costco," Galanti said, "and we are continuing to expand our food offerings."

Galanti said Costco has expanded its prototype from 120,000 to 125,000 square feet to 135,000 square feet to accommodate the additional fresh items, plus food courts, expanded pharmacies, optical shops and one-hour photo sections.