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Costco to open in Australia in ’09


BELLEVUE, WASH. —At its annual shareholders meeting on Jan. 29, Costco announced that it’s on track to open 29 new stores in fiscal 2008. When asked about international expansion, chairman of the board Jeffrey Brotman said the chain plans to “open in Australia sometime next year.”

Costco evp and cfo Richard Galanti later confirmed that the company is searching for sites in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. “We’re looking at opening there in 2009 if everything goes as expected,” he said. The move Down Under would be the first new country Costco has entered in more than eight years. The company, however, said it still isn’t ready to test the waters in China. Brotman said that the move is “still undecided, though we’re taking a hard look at it.”

Ceo Jim Sinegal noted the 531-store chain plans to open 29 new stores this year after opening 31 last year. “We have more than that in the pipeline right now, but that’s the number we think we’ll complete,” he said. He also reaffirmed earlier projections that Costco could eventually open 1,025 stores worldwide with more than 700 warehouses in the United States, 50 in the United Kingdom, 49 in Japan and more than 100 in Canada. And he said those numbers are always subject to change.

“When we first opened in Canada, we thought we might be able to build 10 stores up there,” said Sinegal. Canada currently has 75 stores with four new stores added since September 2007.

Costco continued to push eco-friendly ideas in stores last year. Sinegal said the company increased the number of stores powered by solar energy to 13 and that it may install solar panels at 25 more. He said the average cost of converting a warehouse to solar power is $745,000, but that the cost savings would recoup that investment in three to five years.

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