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    Tough Times Help Boost Costco Sales

    Penny-pinching consumers head to the warehouse club chain to stretch their dollars.

    Today's economic climate is prompting many consumers to tighten their belts, to the benefit of warehouse club retailers like Costco Wholesale Corp., which reported double-digit sales increases and comps of 7 percent for March.

    The retailer saw $6.57 billion in net sales for the five weeks ended April 6, an increase of 11 percent from $5.93 billion during the same period last year.

    For the year-to-date ended April 6, net sales were $41.34 billion, up 12 percent from $36.96 billion last year.

    Comparable sales were 7 percent for the month and also year-to-date for the company.

    Helping to drive comps was the effect of gasoline price inflation, with the average sales price per gallon of gasoline up 20 percent for March compared to last year. Excluding gasoline U.S. comparable sales would have been up 3 percent, instead of the 5 percent Costco saw for both the month and year to date.

    Costco operates 536 warehouses, including 392 in the United States and Puerto Rico, 75 in Canada, 19 in the United Kingdom, six in Korea, five in Taiwan, eight in Japan, and 31 in Mexico. It plans to open an additional 14 to 15 new warehouses (including the relocation of four to five warehouses to larger and better-located facilities) prior to the end of its 2008 fiscal year on August 31.

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