October 15, 2012, 4:19 PM

2012 web sales for Costco.com were solid, but not spectacular

E-commerce sales grew 10% in fiscal 2012, but 14% in Q4.

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The financial books are now closed on fiscal 2012 for Costco Wholesale Corp. and the end result for online sales is about the same: another solid, but hardly stellar, increase in web sales.

For the year ended Sept. 2, Costco, No. 17 in the 2012 Internet Retailer Top 500, reported:

  • E-commerce sales grew year over year about 9.5%. Based on that percentage increase, Internet Retailer calculates web sales reached about $2.08 billion in fiscal 2012 compared with $1.90 billion in fiscal 2011.
  • Total sales increased 11.5% to $97.06 billion in fiscal 2012 from $87.05 billion in fiscal 2011. The figure excludes membership fees. With membership fees included total revenue also grew year over year 11.5% to $99.13 billion from $88.91 billion.
  • Comparable-store sales increased 7%.
  • Net income increased 16.4% to $1.70 billion in fiscal 2012 from $1.46 billion in fiscal 2011.
  • The web accounted for 2.1% of total sales compared with 2.2% in fiscal 2011.

For the fourth quarter:

  • E-commerce increased year over year 14%, although Costco didn’t break out any specific figures.
  • Total sales grew 14.2% to $31.52 billion from $27.59 billion in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2011. The figure excludes membership fees. With membership fees included total revenue grew year over year 14.3% to $32.21 billion from $28.17 billion.
  • Comparable-store sales increased 5%.
  • Net income grew year over year 27.4% to $609 million from $478 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2011.

In recent years, growth online has been impacted by warehouse club members buying fewer big-ticket items, especially big-screen TVs, the retailer says. But in fiscal 2012, Costco was able to grow its web sales while at the same time completing a number of long-term e-commerce and mobile commerce projects, chief financial officer Richard Galanti told Wall Street analysts on the company’s year-end earnings call.

In fiscal 2012, Costco rolled out new mobile apps for members with smartphones and tablets with an Android operating platform. The retailer also updated Costco.com and its Canadian e-commerce site Costco.ca with a new e-commerce platform, although the company didn’t provide much detail. “The new platform certainly improves the visibility of the sites when using search engines and also we believe made several improvements to the sites from the end-user perspective,” Galanti told analysts.

Costco, which opened a Canadian e-commerce site in 2005, is also expanding its international online operations and launching a site in the United Kingdom. The new site is expected to go live before the end of October.

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