Consumers laud warehouse chain in national grocery survey

April 10, 2012

Issaquah-based Costco earned high marks among 52 major grocery chains in a Consumer Reports survey released April 3.

The largest warehouse club chain in the United States clinched the No. 5 spot on the list. Survey respondents lauded Costco for price, products and shopping environment, but dinged the retail giant for customer service.

The 24,203 Consumer Reports subscribers involved in the survey rated Wegmans, Trader Joe’s, Publix and Fareway in the top spots in the survey. (Trader Joe’s operates a store in Issaquah at Pickering Place.)

Though Costco earned points for a selection of quality meat and produce, a clean shopping environment and budget-friendly prices, the chain faltered in the service category, defined as employee courtesy and checkout speed.

Consumer Reports said “service is minimal at warehouse clubs such as Costco, and lengthy lines are a tradeoff for day-in, day-out deals.”

Pathmark, Walmart Supercenter, Shaw’s, A&P and Jewel-Osco received the lowest rankings in the survey.

Issaquah-based Costco earns high marks in survey of grocery chains

April 3, 2012

NEW — 6 a.m. April 3, 2012

Issaquah-based Costco earned high marks among 52 major grocery chains in a Consumer Reports survey released Tuesday.

The largest warehouse club chain in the United States clinched the No. 5 spot on the list. Survey respondents lauded Costco for price, products and shopping environment, but dinged the retail giant for customer service.

The 24,203 Consumer Reports subscribers involved in the survey rated Wegmans, Trader Joe’s, Publix and Fareway in the top spots in the survey. (Trader Joe’s operates a store in Issaquah at Pickering Place.)

Though Costco earned points for a selection of quality meat and produce, a clean shopping environment and budget-friendly prices, the chain faltered in the service category, defined as employee courtesy and checkout speed.

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Issaquah-based Costco ranks No. 1 for quality in survey

February 21, 2012

Issaquah-based Costco pleased shoppers more than other major retailers, Consumer Reports announced Feb. 7.

The magazine surveyed more than 26,000 readers to compile the data. Customers told Consumer Reports about 55,108 shopping experiences at 10 retailers, including Costco, JCPenney, Macy’s, Target and Walmart. The survey respondents also detailed experiences at the retailers’ online outlets.

Costco emerged as the only chain to earn the top rating for overall merchandise quality, in brick-and-mortar stores and online. The warehouse chain also earned above-average scores in all 10 product categories, including electronics and jewelry.

Costco’s website performed better than warehouses on all counts except product quality. The website also received top marks for checkout, layout and product value.

Customers dinged Costco for below-average selection in warehouses, in-store service and the checkout experience, due to long lines. Shoppers also complained about Costco’s dearth of fitting rooms.

In addition to store ratings, the report also includes Consumer Reports reader scores for the product offerings at all major stores, including clothing, jewelry, hardware, home decor, kitchenware, electronics, sporting goods and toys.

The complete survey results appear in the March issue of Consumer Reports.

Costco is the largest employer in Issaquah. The company employs about 2,700 people in Issaquah corporate offices and at the flagship warehouse in Pickering Place.

Costco tops list for quality in Consumer Reports customer survey

February 7, 2012

NEW — 6 a.m. Feb. 7, 2012

Issaquah-based Costco pleased shoppers more than other major retailers, Consumer Reports announced Tuesday.

The magazine surveyed more than 26,000 readers to compile the data. Customers told Consumer Reports about 55,108 shopping experiences at 10 retailers, including Costco, JCPenney, Macy’s, Target and Walmart. The survey respondents also detailed experiences at the retailers’ online outlets.

Costco emerged as the only chain to earn the top rating for overall merchandise quality, in brick-and-mortar stores and online. The warehouse chain also earned above-average scores in all 10 product categories, including electronics and jewelry.

Costco’s website performed better than warehouses on all counts except product quality. The website also received top marks for checkout, layout and product value.

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Developer requests $3 million from city for Issaquah Highlands retail center

November 22, 2011

In order to complete a long-planned business district in the Issaquah Highlands — and transform 14 acres into a cinema, shops, restaurants and more than 1,700 parking stalls — the developer behind the project said about $3 million in city funds is needed.

The developer, Florida-based Regency Centers, said the highlands project needs the dollars to complete roadwork and other infrastructure.

Regency and highlands developer Port Blakely Communities announced a deal in July to sell the land for a retail center, but before Regency completes the deal, company planners asked city leaders to commit public dollars to the project.

City officials said the retail complex could generate about $1 million in sales tax revenue each year.

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Cruise passengers urged to explore beyond Seattle

October 25, 2011

From the Space Needle to Pike Place Market, Seattle has plenty to offer its guests, but the Washington Tourism Alliance and the Port of Seattle are encouraging cruise ship tourists to explore beyond the predictable city limits. They are hoping tourists will venture into the suburban and rural areas outside of Seattle, including Issaquah.

“It’s really about what can you offer as an attractive package as an add-on to the cruise purchase,” said Dan Trimble, then-economic development manager for the city of Issaquah. “We’re pretty fortunate here to have several things that can be easily compartmentalized to those packages.”

Bill Bryant

From the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery and Cougar Mountain Zoo, to outdoor opportunities and shopping districts, Issaquah has plenty to offer its tourists, Trimble said.

This is part of a plan carried out by the newly established Washington Tourism Alliance, which is working along with the Port of Seattle and other tourism agencies to let people know about the tourist opportunities that exist outside of Seattle.

“The cruise ship (industry) brings about $400 million to King County and the region, and that’s because the passengers are staying one to two nights in the area. But most of them are spending that time in downtown Seattle,” Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant said.

He said he hopes the cruise ship tourists extend their stay and explore the surrounding areas, “whether that is wineries in Woodinville or going out to Snoqualmie Falls.”

The state Legislature recently cut funding for the state tourism office.

In its place, various stakeholders including the port, some of the hotel associations and some of the restaurant associations have established the WTA to serve as a vehicle for communities to reach out to tourists, Bryant said.

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Issaquah-based Costco hikes membership fees

October 25, 2011

Issaquah-based Costco increased membership fees 10 percent as the largest warehouse-club chain in the United States offsets rising costs.

The increase, effective Nov. 1, ups annual individual, or Gold Star, and business memberships from $50 to $55. Costco also plans to increase Executive Membership fees from $100 to $110 next month.

Costco said the fee increases impact more than 22 million members, about half of them in the Executive Membership program.

Members in the executive program also receive up to a 2 percent annual reward on purchases. The company increased the maximum reward from $500 to $750 as part of the fee hike.

The company last raised individual and business membership fees in 2006. Company executives announced the latest hike Oct. 5.

Costco’s profit margins narrowed in the most recent fiscal quarter as the company faced higher costs for cotton, gasoline, meat and other goods offered at the chain’s 592 warehouses around the globe.

Costco is the largest employer in Issaquah. The company employs about 2,700 people in Issaquah corporate offices and at the flagship warehouse in Pickering Place.

Issaquah-based Costco increases membership fees

October 6, 2011

NEW — 8 a.m. Oct. 6, 2011

Issaquah-based Costco increased membership fees 10 percent as the largest warehouse-club chain in the United States offsets rising costs.

The increase, effective Nov. 1, ups annual individual, or Gold Star, and business memberships from $50 to $55. Costco also plans to increase Executive Membership fees from $100 to $110 next month.

Costco said the fee increases impact more than 22 million members, about half of them in the Executive Membership program.

Members in the executive program also receive up to a 2 percent annual reward on purchases. The company increased the maximum reward from $500 to $750 as part of the fee hike.

The company last raised individual and business membership fees in 2006. Company executives announced the latest hike Wednesday.

Costco’s profit margins narrowed in the most recent fiscal quarter as the company faced higher costs for cotton, gasoline, meat and other goods offered at the chain’s 592 warehouses around the globe.

Costco is the largest employer in Issaquah. The company employs about 2,700 people in Issaquah corporate offices and at the flagship warehouse in Pickering Place.

Mayor Ava Frisinger unveils 2012 city budget

October 4, 2011

Construction could start on a long-planned park along Issaquah Creek, North Issaquah landowners and the city could partner to tackle transportation problems, and police could step up traffic enforcement if the City Council approves the 2012 municipal budget Mayor Ava Frisinger unveiled Oct. 3.

Frisinger offered a $32 million general fund budget — dollars used to fund police and fire services, community development and planning, parks and recreation, and municipal government.

The proposal is not as austere as the budgets Frisinger proposed in recent years. The council adopted a $30.4 million general fund budget in 2011. The increase stems in part from increased debt payments on council-issued bonds for city construction projects.

The proposal does not call for a property tax or rate increases. The council last raised the property tax rate in 2007. Under state law, council members could increase the rate 1 percent per year.

Frisinger’s announcement launched at least a month of deliberations between council members and city staffers to craft a complete budget. The council is required to adopt the budget before Dec. 31.

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Jim Sinegal to retire as Costco CEO

September 6, 2011

Issaquah-based warehouse club selects longtime manager as successor

Costco members, breathe a sigh of relief.

Incoming CEO Craig Jelinek does not intend to change anything about the $1.50 hot-dog-and-soda combo.

“That price will never increase — I can’t say never, because you never know — but I’ve got to tell you, I don’t want to be the one that does it,” Craig Jelinek joked Sept. 1, a day after Costco CEO and cofounder Jim Sinegal announced plans to retire.

Sinegal, a legendary fan of the company’s hot dog deal, plans to step down as CEO on Jan. 1 after transforming Issaquah-based Costco from a lone South Seattle warehouse almost 30 years ago to 592 outposts around the globe nowadays. The frugal Sinegal built the empire by offering generous benefits to employees and deep discounts to customers.

Jim Sinegal

Jelinek, president and chief operating officer at the No. 3 retailer in the United States and the largest employer in Issaquah, started at Costco as a warehouse manager in 1984.

“Costco has a very strong culture and a deep bench of management talent,” Sinegal said in a statement. “I have total confidence in Craig’s ability to handle his new responsibilities and feel we are fortunate as a company to have an executive of his caliber to succeed me as chief executive of Costco.”

Though Sinegal, 75, is stepping down as CEO, he intends to remain at Costco through January 2013 to advise and assist Jelinek, 59, through the transition. The outgoing CEO also plans to remain on the Costco board.

Both executives learned about retail from warehouse club pioneer Sol Price, the late FedMart and Price Club founder. (Price Club and Costco merged in 1993.)

Costco board members selected Jelinek as president and chief operating officer in February 2010 — a sign the company intended for the longtime employee to succeed Sinegal.

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