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Costco Wholesale Corporation operates an international chain of membership warehouses, mainly under the "Costco Wholesale" name, that carry quality, brand name merchandise at substantially lower prices than are typically found at conventional wholesale or retail sources. The warehouses are designed to help small-to-medium-sized businesses reduce costs in purchasing for resale and for everyday business use. Individuals may also purchase for their personal needs.
Costco's warehouses present one of the largest and most exclusive product category selections to be found under a single roof. Categories include groceries, candy, appliances, television and media, automotive supplies, tires, toys, hardware, sporting goods, jewelry, watches, cameras, books, housewares, apparel, health and beauty aids, tobacco, furniture, office supplies and office equipment. Costco is known for carrying top quality national and regional brands, with 100% satisfaction guaranteed, at prices consistently below traditional wholesale or retail outlets.
Members can also shop for private label Kirkland Signature products, designed to be of equal or better quality than national brands, including juice, cookies, coffee, housewares, luggage, clothing and detergent. The Company also operates self-service gasoline stations at a number of its U.S. and Canadian locations.
Additionally, Costco Wholesale Industries, a division of the Company, operates manufacturing businesses, including special food packaging, optical laboratories, meat processing and jewelry distribution. These businesses have a common goal of providing members with high quality products at substantially lower prices.
According to Jim Sinegal, the Company's Co-Founder and Director, "Costco is able to offer lower prices and better values by eliminating virtually all the frills and costs historically associated with conventional wholesalers and retailers, including salespeople, fancy buildings, delivery, billing and accounts receivable. We run a tight operation with extremely low overhead which enables us to pass on dramatic savings to our members."
Costco is open only to members and offers three types of membership: Business, Gold Star (individual) and the Executive membership. Business members qualify by owning or operating a business, and pay an annual fee ($55 in the U.S.) to shop for resale, business and personal use. This fee includes a household card. Business members may purchase up to six additional membership cards ($55 each) for partners or associates in the business.
Gold Star members pay a $55 annual fee (in the U.S.), and is available to those individuals that do not own a business. This fee includes a free household membership.
The Company also has a third membership level, called the Executive Membership. In addition to offering all of the usual benefits, it allows members to purchase a variety of discounted consumer services (auto and homeowner insurance, auto buying, mortgage, refinancing, boat and RV loans, identity protection, personal check printing, and/or business services (business phone services, merchant credit card processing, health and dental insurance, payroll services, business check and forms printing, small-business 401(k) plans, small-business web sites ) at substantially reduced rates. Executive Members also receive a 2% annual reward (up to $750 beginning January 1, 2012) on most of their warehouse purchases. Executive Members pay an annual fee of $110.
Costco warehouses generally are open seven days per week for all members.
Costco is a Washington corporation, publicly traded under the Nasdaq ticker symbol "COST", with its home office in Issaquah, Washington.
A more complete description of the Company and its business is contained in the Company's periodic filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.