October 15, 2008, 12:00 AM

Despite a weak economy, Costco.com turns in another strong year

For the 2008 fiscal year, sales at Costco.com grew by 41.7%, compared with 12.6% for total revenue and 8% for comparable warehouse sales. Overall Costco.com accounted for 2% of total sales and drove 6% of the revenue growth across all channels.

Bill Briggs

Senior Editor

Costco.com has wrapped up another year of strong web sales.

For the 2008 fiscal year, Costco Wholesale Corp. generated web sales of $1.7 billion, an increase of 41.7% from web sales of $1.2 billion in fiscal 2007. In comparison, Costco, No. 18 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide , grew total revenue by 12.6% while comparable warehouse sales rose year-over-year by 8%.

For fiscal 2008, Costco posted net income of $1.28 billion on revenue of $72.5 billion vs. net income of $1.08 billion on revenue of $64.4 billion in the prior year. Overall Costco.com accounted for 2% of total sales and drove 6% of the growth in revenue across all channels. “Internet sales for the whole year came in just shy of $1.7 billion, certainly beating our own budget,” Costco chief financial officer Richard Galanti told stock analysts on Costco’s recent year-end earnings call.

Though Costco didn’t break out specific numbers, Internet sales were softer in the fourth quarter, growing year-over-year by 26% compared with 34% in Q4 of fiscal 2007. “In recent weeks we have seen a slight reduction in the average ticket, but not in frequency of transactions,” Galanti told stock analysts. “Our average ticket is over $400 and big-ticket items have certainly slowed.”

Overall In the fourth quarter ended Aug. 31 Costco posted net income of $397.8 million on revenue of $23 billion, compared with net income of $372.4 million on revenue of $20.5 billion in Q4 of 2007.

Costco members are upscale shoppers. About 74% of Costco.com’s customers are college graduates with annual household income of more than $78,000 and 90% are homeowners. 50% of customers who shop online also are executive members who pay a higher annual fee for perks such as annual rewards and lower prices on services such as check printing, auto financing and long-distance phone service.

Costco ended fiscal 2008 with 7.6 million members and membership fee revenue of $1.5 billion. But Costco’s affluent shoppers are being more economical. “Our members are coming in and being a little bit more disciplined,” Galanti told stock analysts. “They are holding off on buying big-ticket items.”

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