Costco exec shares success stories
Sunday, October 28, 2012
YAKIMA -- When Costco opened its first store in Seoul, South Korea, in the mid-1990s, the warehouse retailer planned to have the same offerings available its U.S. stores, including freshly made pizza in the food court.
But newly hired Korean employees were skeptical, noting that their countrymen didn't eat a lot of bread, tomatoes or cheese.
Today, Seoul, which is home to three of Costco's eight Korean locations, now sells more Costco cheese pizza than anywhere else, said Paul Moulton, Costco's executive vice president and chief information officer, in a speech Thursday to the Rotary Club of Yakima.
Moulton, who has worked for Costco for more than 25 years, spent much of the 1990s living abroad to bring Costco to Britain, Korea, Taiwan and Japan. Much of his presentation Thursday focused on Costco's international market.
While some items native to that country are offered, Costco does not overhaul its design or product lines at international locations.
"By and large, you do it the way you know how to do it and adjust from there," Moulton said.
Costco has nearly 600 stores in nine countries, including locations in North America, Europe and Asia. Most recently the Issaquah-based retailer ventured into Australia, opening three stores in the past two years. In January 2012, Costco reported worldwide sales of $92.2 billion for the last 12 months. That made Costco the second-largest retailer in the U.S. behind Wal-Mart and seventh largest worldwide.
What makes Costco popular abroad, Moulton said, is its ability to offer high-quality products otherwise not available to local shoppers for a competitive price.