Opinion: Costco – the overlooked success that’s disrupting retail

Costco Manchester

When Costco Europe senior vice-president Steve Pappas retired last autumn, after overseeing the US giant’s UK operations for 13 years, his departure didn’t make the same headlines as some other senior retailers.

It was typical of how Costco can sometimes be overlooked in the UK, but while there may not be much media focus on the business, it has made a big impact.

From humble beginnings in Seattle in 1976 – like that other famous retailer Amazon – by 2019 Costco Wholesale had grown into a $150bn-turnover global business with margins of 11% and profits of $3.7bn. It is the third-largest retailer in the world with 783 warehouses in 12 countries.

In the UK, Costco launched in 1993 and it now boasts 29 warehouses here that generated turnover of over £2.6bn in 2018 and online revenue of £75m – up from £12.8m in 2013.

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