I’m very low on the Costco shareholder food chain, but I was still invited to their annual shareholders meeting. It was a bit much to go all the way to Bellevue, Washington, so I had to miss out. But I kinds wish I hadn’t. It sounds like one big party:
The retail sector may be in a downward spiral, but the hundreds of investors who attended Costco’s annual shareholders meeting in Bellevue, Wash., on Wednesday had other concerns. For example: How long was the line for free croissant sandwiches? And where were people getting slices of pecan pie?
“I can get enough chocolate muffins here to stock up for my Super Bowl party,” says Julie Beeler, a longtime shareholder who drove 30 minutes from Des Moines, Wash., to attend the festivities. “I’ve been to the meetings for Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft, but Costco has the best ones. I don’t have any questions–they’re a good company.”
Beeler is right to be pleased – and not just with the snacks. Costco (COST, Fortune 500), along with Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500), is one of the few retailers to buck dismal sales trends over the last year. The $71 billion warehouse chain announced in December a 4% jump in quarterly revenues, to $16 billion, and a 1% increase in same-store sales (both metrics were hurt by foreign exchange). Costco’s stock dipped 23% last year (compared to a 32% drop in the S&P retail index), but if you bought it five years ago you’ve still seen 63% returns.
Several of the shareholders at the meeting recognized each other, shaking hands and hugging over packets of free laundry detergent and caramel macadamia nut clusters. Samples were abundant, just as they are at the company’s 550 stores. Sally Holzbach, an 83-year-old shareholder who attended the event with her daughter, Sarah, got her picture taken, then printed on a cover layout of Costco Connection magazine.
And, by the way, Costco’s 16-cent per share dividend is paying out Feb 27, but you have to be a shareholder by Feb 13 to get it.