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May 28, 2020

Costco dangles hot dogs, food samples to lure back shoppers

Retail roundup: Aritizia, Costco and Dollar General

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For all those who have missed munching on Costco Wholesale Corp.’s cheap and tasty hot dogs, don’t worry: Nearly all of its food courts will be re-opened by the middle of June, CFO Richard Galanti said on the company’s third-quarter earnings call.

About 20 per cent of the food courts were reopened at the end of the quarter. Costco has also eliminated some food items, but didn’t say which ones.

Another big part of the Costco in-store experience are the free food samples. Vendors also love them, as they’re key to getting customers to try new items. The company said today that it will start a “slow rollout” of some form of sampling in mid-June, but it won’t be stuff on open trays, picked up with fingers. “I can’t say anymore,” Galanti said cryptically.

Costco relies on store traffic more than other retailers as it was slow to embrace e-commerce, preferring to rely on the “treasure hunt” in-store experience. U.S. foot traffic was down two per cent in the quarter.

Costco’s comparable-store domestic sales, excluding gas, rose eight per cent, beating analysts’ expectation for a seven-per-cent gain. Earnings per share of US$1.89 trailed estimates.