Can Costco Save America's Malls?

by: Judy Weil

Costco talks about some interesting trends in this downturn. From Costco Wholesale Corp.'s FQ109 conference call:

For once, a positive sign for malls:

We continue to think that there’s plenty of opportunity in the US and Canada. We think that, our bet is if we’re in six or seven malls right now, and when I say we’re in malls, we’re usually in the parking lot with a breezeway entrance into the mall. In some instances, one example would be in Atlanta Cumberland Mall, they literally, the mall owner tore down I think it was the JC Penny and then we redid the parking lot and we have a gas station and a full Costco with no direct attachment other then a breezeway into the mall.

But no doubt we’re there because we bring destination shoppers of high end to that mall and its been a great location for us in terms of somewhere we weren’t invited to even come to the party. And so I think you’re going to see more of that going forward in many parts.

We think there’s some more real estate opportunities coming down the road over the next several months but that being said, trying to predict what’s going to happen eight, nine months from now is very hard right now.

TV’s, LCD's:

If you go onto you can see that we’re selling two packs of flat screen televisions for less then $1500 for the both of them and so we’ve seen a lot of, notwithstanding what’s going on in the economy and with big ticket items we have taken an advantage of an opportunistic and going to vendors that have been stuck with inventory when other cancellations have occurred elsewhere and taking advantage of that.

For restaurants, grocers and meatpackers, demand for meat declines, prices too:

A year ago New York steaks were $7.99, they’re now $5.99, that’s all because of a lower demand… The only shift I’ve seen is is there’s been some shift from meat to poultry and things like that, but that’s not just in the last month, that’s been, and we’ve seen anecdotally in our food court we’ve seen a huge jump in take-home cooked pizzas.

People I think instead of eating out are coming to supermarkets and to Costco to have dinner.

This is suprising:

Just looking through the list I was surprised to see given all the craziness out there that alcohol was flat, beer and wine and spirits.

Parking its money elsewhere:

Somebody asked this morning were we investing in any of these negative return treasuries and the answer is no, we haven’t.