Costco Wholesale Corp. continued to build on strong pandemic-propelled gains a year ago, as April sales growth surpassed 30%.
In the four weeks ended May 2, net sales jumped 33.5% to $15.21 billion from $11.39 billion a year earlier, Costco reported yesterday after the market close. For the 35-week year to date, the warehouse club retailer tallied net sales of $126.58 billion, up 17.6% from $107.64 billion over the prior-year period.
Comparable-club sales in the April selling period climbed 32.5% overall and were up 24.2% excluding the impact of changes in fuel prices and foreign exchange (FX) rates. By business unit, comp sales rose 30.4% in the United States (24.9% excluding fuel and FX), 44% in Canada (23.8% excluding fuel and FX) and 33.5% internationally (20.3% excluding fuel and FX).
Costco’s April e-commerce sales grew 20.5% on a comparable basis and were up 17.3% excluding FX.
The monthly results marked a big rebound from April 2020, when Costco saw decreases of 1.8% in net sales and 4.7% in comp-store sales, including a comp-sales decline of 3.3% in the U.S. (flat excluding fuel and FX). At the time, the company said stay-at-home orders, social distancing restrictions and some mandatory closures reduced traffic and sales at clubs. Business also was negatively impacted by limited service in travel and food courts; the closing of most optical, hearing aid and photo departments; and lower volume and price deflation in fuel sales.
Customer traffic for April 2021 surged by 34% worldwide and 33.3% in the U.S., according to David Sherwood, assistant vice president of finance and investor relations at Costco.
“This year's four-week April retail month had one additional shopping day versus last year due to the calendar shift of Easter. This positively impacted total and comparable sales, as well as traffic, by approximately 2.5%,” Sherwood said in a conference call late Wednesday.
“The average transaction for April was down 1.1%, which included positive impacts of 480 basis points from gasoline inflation and 350 basis points from FX,” he said, adding that the average fuel selling price was up 57% to $3.02 from $1.92 a year ago.
Among comp sales in core merchandise categories, “food and sundries were positive high single digits. Tobacco, sundries and candy were the strongest departments,” Sherwood reported. “Fresh foods were up high single digits; better-performing departments included service deli and bakery. Nonfoods were positive in the high 40s. Better-performing departments included jewelry, apparel and home furnishings. Ancillary business sales were up more than 100%. Gas, hearing aids and optical were all significant drivers.” Comp-sales results exclude the positive impact of FX.
U.S. regions and markets posting the strongest sales results in April were the Southeast, Los Angeles and the Midwest, while internationally Mexico, Japan and the United Kingdom had the strongest performances, according to Sherwood.
Costco closed out the April retail period with 809 warehouse clubs overall, compared with 787 a year earlier. By market, the retailer operates 559 clubs in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, 105 in Canada, 39 in Mexico, 29 in the United Kingdom, 29 in Japan, 16 in Korea, 14 in Taiwan, 12 in Australia, three in Spain and one each in Iceland, France and China. Costco runs e-commerce sites in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Mexico, Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Australia.