Costco’s March sales highlight U.S. consumers’ recent shift to spending on essential items versus discretionary ones.
Reported Wednesday, Costco’s U.S. comparable sales, excluding the impacts from changes in gasoline prices and foreign exchange, were only up 0.9%, which represents a major slowdown from previous months and which was the company’s lowest since April 2020 (at the onset of the pandemic). Not only were the sales results themselves eye-opening, but so too was the company’s discussion of which products sold well and which ones didn’t.
By category, food and sundries (including canned foods, dry grocery, candy, cooler, freezer, deli, liquor and tobacco) were up high-single digits; fresh foods (including meat, produce and bakery) were up mid-single digits; and nonfood (major appliances, electronics, apparel, etc.) was down mid- to high-single digits. Home furnishings, toys and jewelry — all discretionary categories — were among the worst performers.
As Costco’s large competitor Walmart said in late February on its Q4 earnings call, there is considerable pressure on U.S. consumers, the signs of which are mounting by the day and week. In fact, FreightWaves reported Wednesday that U.S. box demand remains poor by all indications.