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Big-box discount retailer Costco is the fourth largest supermarket by sales with over $122 billion in 2021 sales and is the fifth largest retailer in the U.S. The Issaquah, Wash.-based membership-only chain has just over 600 stores was founded in 1983 when it opened its first warehouse.

Costco merged with its biggest competitor, Price Club, in 1993 and the new company name was PriceCostco though the new company changed its name to Costco Wholesale Corporation in 1997 and eventually changed all former Price Club’s to Costco locations.

The chain’s private label brand, Kirkland, has become famous for its imitation-quality of more expensive items but the chain is known more for its free samples located at the ends of each aisle. Kirkland was named for the chain’s former headquartered town in Washington state.

Costco’s pricing rule is that no regular item may be marked up more than 14% over cost, and no Kirkland Signature item may be marked up more than 15% over cost. This helps the company run on very thin margins.

Costco once refused to sell Coca-Cola when it deemed the wholesale price too high, and Coca-Cola refused to raise it. The companies reached an agreement the next year.

Costco food courts, famous for its hot dogs, are among the Top 200 highest-grossing restaurants in the U.S. as ranked by Nation’s Restaurant News.

Outside of the U.S., Costco has almost 200 warehouses open from Canada to China.

Key Data: Costco

Headquarters: Issaquah, Wash.

U.S. Retail Banners: Costco

2020 Sales: $122 billion

2020 Store Locations: 643

Annual Growth (Top 50)



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