The rise of Costco in Australia

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Over the past five years, it’s been each city’s first store that has most accelerated the growth in total Australian shoppers, trended consumer retail data from Roy Morgan Research shows.

In the year to September 2015, 667,000 Australians over the age of 14 were Costco shoppers (people who visit in an average four-week period and/or say they mainly or sometimes shop there). Of all these total Costco shoppers, only 63 per cent actually shop there in an average four weeks – a proportion well below the 80-90 per cent among Woolworths, Coles, IGA or ALDI shoppers.

Roy Morgan Research CEO Michele Levine says very few Australians do their main grocery shopping at Costco – “each new Costco may take tiny bites out of a whole range of nearby retailers”.

Each new Costco store adds new shoppers overall, with growth strongest when a new city gets its first outlet. Within two years of its much-hyped Australian store launching in Melbourne’s Docklands in August 2009, Costco gained around 140,000 shoppers, but this showed signs of having peaked. After the second and third stores opened in Sydney and Canberra in July 2011, the total number of shoppers soon surpassed 300,000, but, again, after a couple of years, growth appeared to be slowing.

Second stores in both Melbourne and Sydney in November 2013 gained some new shoppers in each city, but growth really accelerated once Brisbane got its first Costco in May 2014 and Adelaide its first in November 2014. This latest data doesn’t yet show the impact of the eighth Costco store that opened in Moorabbin last November: new data covering the last quarter of 2015 will be available soon.

Costco recently announced it will open three more of its big box membership stores across Australia in 2016 – Melbourne’s fourth, Sydney’s third, and Brisbane’s second, for a total of 11 nationwide.

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