Costco's service deli was one of the better-performing departments last month.

Costco sees sales climb in March

Fresh foods help fuel comp-store gains

Costco Wholesale Corp. posted robust sales growth for March, driven in part by solid gains in food and other consumables categories.

The warehouse club chain said late Wednesday that total revenue climbed 10.9% year over year to $12.92 billion for the five weeks ended April 8. Companywide same-store sales were up 8.6% in the period, with U.S. clubs seeing 8.3% growth. E-commerce sales jumped 33.2%.

Excluding changes in fuel prices and foreign exchange, Costco’s comp-store sales rose 5.8% overall and 6.7% in the U.S., while e-commerce sales grew 32.1%.

Costco noted that the Easter calendar shift resulted in one fewer shopping day versus a year ago, which negatively impacted total and same-store sales in the five weeks by 1% to 1.5%.

“Food and sundries were up mid-single digits. Departments with the strongest results were tobacco, liquor and deli,” Costco assistant vice president of finance and investor relations David Sherwood said in a conference call. Those results exclude the impact of foreign exchange.

Among softlines categories, fresh foods saw comp-sales gains in the mid-single digits, with bakery and service deli being the better-performing departments, Sherwood said.

In the U.S., the regions with the strongest results in the March sales period were the Southeast, Midwest and Northwest.

“Our comp traffic or frequency for March was up 4.3% worldwide and 4.5% in the U.S. These results include the negative impact from the holiday shift,” Sherwood said. “The average transaction was up 4.2% for the month, which includes the combined impacts of foreign exchange and gasoline price inflation.”

Outside the U.S., Costco reported comparable sales increases of 7.1% in Canada (2% excluding fuel price and forex changes) and 12.3% in other international markets (5.4% excluding fuel price and forex changes) for the five weeks ended April 8.

Costco operates 749 warehouses overall, including 519 in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, 98 in Canada, 38 in Mexico, 28 in the United Kingdom, 26 in Japan, 14 in Korea, 13 in Taiwan, nine in Australia, two in Spain, one in Iceland and one in France. The retailer also operates e-commerce websites in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Mexico, Korea and Taiwan.

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