Costco Wholesale Corp. on Thursday announced that Hamilton E. (Tony) James has been elected as the chairman of its board of directors, according to a press release. He replaces founder and chairman Jeff Brotman, who died earlier this month at the age of 74.
James is president and chief operating officer of private equity firm The Blackstone Group, and a member of the board of directors of its general partner, Blackstone Group Management. He is also a member of Blackstone’s management committee and sits on each of the firm’s investment committees.
He has been a director of Costco Wholesale since August 1988 and was its lead independent director since 2005, the company said.
Despite a temperate approach to e-commerce, Costco continues to hold its own against Amazon. The membership-based warehouse retailer announced June results that wowed investors, and while other Wall Street firms lowered their outlook, Raymond James Financial raised its Costco rating from "market perform" to "outperform," saying that its business won’t be "materially impacted" by Amazon's plans and that its sales growth will remain solid.
Costco's results "should serve as a reminder that not all retailers are created equally," wrote Gordon Haskett analyst Chuck Grom in a note emailed to Retail Dive. "Importantly, traffic trends were very healthy during June.”
What makes Costco different is its strong customer loyalty, which keeps shoppers returning to stores time and again. Members come for the gas and the cheap groceries (Costco’s infamously low-priced rotisserie chickens are a hit with millennials) and stay for the treasure-hunt. "The Issaquah, Washington-based chain is one of an elite group of retailers that routinely generates positive foot traffic into stores," Retail Metrics president Ken Perkins wrote in an email to Retail Dive. "Costco experienced an impressive 4% traffic gain worldwide with U.S. foot traffic growing by an even stronger 4.5%."
Costco operates 737 warehouses, including 512 in the United States and Puerto Rico, 97 in Canada, 37 in Mexico, 28 in the United Kingdom, 25 in Japan, 13 in Korea, 13 in Taiwan, eight in Australia, two in Spain, one in Iceland and one in France. Costco also operates electronic commerce web sites in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Korea and Taiwan.