Costco sales spike 11% on holiday cocktail of toys and liquor

Impact of tariffs varies by product

Costco sales climbed 11 percent in December, as holiday shoppers stocked up on toys, candy and liquor at the retail warehouse chain.

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Revenue reached $17 billion in the five weeks from Dec. 2 through Jan. 5, executives at the Issaquah, Washington-based company said Thursday. The growth was fueled by its 546 stores in the U.S., with Texas, San Diego, California, and the Midwest among the top-performing regions, as well as a surge in online shopping.

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While a website outage during critical sales hours on Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, hurt sales, online revenue still jumped more than 15 percent in the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, the company said. Additionally, a later-than-usual Thanksgiving buoyed sales in December, since the bulk of holiday shopping in the U.S. occurs in the weeks afterward.

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Along with candy, liquor and toys, top-selling categories for the month were sporting goods, jewelry and apparel, said David Sherwood, an executive vice president. International sales benefited from the opening of a store in Shanghai in late August, the company's first in China.

The site serves three times as many customers per month as the company's average of 70,000 per store, noted Michael Lasser, an analyst with the Swiss investment bank UBS.

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Costco's growth marks a bright spot in an industry grappling with a widening shift to e-commerce, higher costs from President Trump's trade wars and high debt from past restructurings. Department store Macy's said Wednesday that sales at stores open at least a year tumbled 0.7 percent in December, while home-goods merchant Bed Bath & Beyond saw revenue slide 9 percent to $2.76 billion in the three months through Nov. 30.

Customers shop in Costco's new warehouse in Shanghai in September 2019. The site is the company's first in China. (Xinhua/Liu Ying via Getty Images)

Large retailers, including Walmart and Costco, have worked to shield customers as much as possible from the impact of Trump's double-digit tariffs on billions of dollars in Chinese imports, which were intended to force a broader trade agreement with Beijing but have driven up supply costs and eaten into profit margins.

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"We've moved a few things where we can and sourced it out of other countries," Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti told investors last month. "In some cases where the price has gone up and we have passed on all or some of it, we haven't seen an impact to the unit sales. On others, we have and we never know until it happens."