By Claire Reilly
Despite being a goliath of American retail, Costco is a relative newcomer in the Australian market, with a total of three stores that have opened in the eastern states since August 2009. With the retailer’s newest store in Canberra’s Majura Park celebrating its one year anniversary this week, Current.com.au spoke to Costco Australia country manager Patrick Noone about the company’s recent history and its plans for the future.
Current.com.au: How has Costco’s rollout in the Australian market been received?
Patrick Noone: I think it’s doing really well, it’s had a lot of acceptance here in Sydney and also in Canberra. The Canberra warehouse is performing above our expectations, as is Sydney, so we’re very happy with the opportunities we’ve had and we’re looking forward to expanding the business here in Australia.
We’ve just announced Ringwood in Melbourne this week, so that’s going to be our second store in the Melbourne market. Obviously we’ll only have one in Canberra, but we’re very interested in Brisbane and Adelaide as well, so we’ve got a lot on the go right now.
Then in Sydney we’re looking at another location, too. We’re in Auburn and we’re looking at the south-west Sydney area, at Liverpool. Nothing’s confirmed yet, but there’s lots of other opportunities around Sydney, in the north and south and west.
C: How have membership numbers been?
PN: They’re good, well above our expectations, and we’re coming into that renewal period now and the renewals have been very good.
C: Are you concerned that there might have been an initial rush of excitement from consumers looking to become members, but that you won’t see as many people signing up for a second year?
PN: No I don’t think so. I think there’s always an element of that and people always have to make their own determination, but from the sales volume we’ve seen and the initial renewal results that we’ve seen so far, I think people are happy with what they’ve got and they’re renewing.
C: Does Costco maintain the same kinds of products all year round, or do you do seasonal ranging and pop-up sales?
PN: ‘Sales’ might not the right word, but we do have a sort of treasure hunt mentality where we bring things in and turn them over very quickly through a seasonal experience. We had air conditioners and fans in summer and we have heaters in right now, so that would be one example of a seasonal offer.
Now we’re also bringing in all of our summer seasonal patio furniture and also Christmas decorations and toys coming in for the Christmas season. And we’re going to bring our appliances in on the back of that, so in January we’ll intensify our large appliances for a few months. We play the market. We see what’s going on in the market and see what we can do best at.
We have our model and we’re pursuing our expansion plans, and we’re looking forward to the years ahead – it’s a great opportunity for Costco to do business in this market.