Costco Wholesale is an American retail corporation that operates membership warehouse clubs.

This article provides a timeline of Costco spanning over four decades of the company's notable history and expansion into a multinational retailer.

EARLY HISTORY (1976 - 1993)

First Price Mart in San Diego
© History Oasis

1976 — Price Club

Sol Price founds the Price Club in San Diego, opening the first warehouse in Morena Boulevard located in converted airplane hangars previously owned by Howard Hughes.

The warehouse sells items in bulk at discounted prices to small business owners.

1983 — First Costco

Jim Sinegal and Jeffrey Brotman open the first Costco warehouse in Seattle on September 15th.

Sinegal had previously worked with Sol Price at FedMart.

The company opens two more locations in Portland and Spokane by the end of the year.

1985 — IPO

Costco goes public after reaching 17 warehouse locations nationwide and almost 2 million members.

The first Costco Business Center opens later that year in Lynnwood, Washington.

1986 — International Expansion

Price Club expands to Canada by opening a location in Montreal.

They also announce plans to open locations in Spain and Portugal through their Canadian operations.

1989 — East Coast Expansion

Costco opens their first warehouse locations on the East Coast in New York and New Jersey.

1992 — Mexico City

Price Club forms a joint venture with Mexican retailer Comercial Mexicana to open their first warehouse in Mexico City.

1993 — PriceCostco

Price Club is operating 206 warehouse locations while Costco reaches 107 units. The companies agree to a merger to combine their similar warehouse models under the PriceCostco name.

GROWTH & EXPANSION (1994 - 2013)

what Costco looked like in the 90s
© History Oasis

1994 — PriceSmart

The Price family leaves PriceCostco to form a separate PriceSmart company focused on warehouses in Central America and the Caribbean.

1996 — Issaquah

Costco moves their corporate headquarters from Kirkland to a new dedicated campus in Issaquah, WA located next to a warehouse store.

1997 — Midwest Expansion

Remaining Price Club locations are rebranded under the Costco brand.

The company also expands by opening their first locations in the Midwest in Michigan and Ohio.

2001 — Asian Expansion

Costco reaches sales of $43 billion from 413 warehouse locations worldwide.

They continue focusing on international growth, opening their first locations in South Korea and Taiwan.

2007 — Kirkland Signature

The company surpasses $64 billion in sales from 488 warehouses.

Over 80% of items sold feature the Kirkland Signature private label.

2009 — Poultry Production

Costco opens poultry production facilities in Nebraska to control quality and costs of their signature rotisserie chickens.

2011 — Australia

Reaches $89 billion in sales from 592 warehouse locations globally including the first store in Australia.

International locations account for 20% of sales.

2012 —

Online sales site establishes a separate division focused on small businesses.

Over 4 million people now have Costco memberships.

2013 — $100 Billion

Costco warehouses rise to 634 units globally with membership reaching 71 million cardholders.

Sales exceed $100 billion.


© History Oasis

2014 — Alibaba Partnership

Costco signs agreement with Alibaba Group to open an online store in China the following year, their first e-commerce operations in the country.

2015 — Membership Fees

Reaches 686 total warehouses worldwide with sales surpassing $116 billion.

Over 75% of sales now come from membership fees.

2017 — 90 Million Memberships

Hits a milestone with over 90 million Costco membership cardholders globally.

2019 — China

After years of anticipation, Costco opens their first physical retail location in China located in Shanghai.

Warehouses also open in Spain, France, Iceland, and New Zealand.

2020 — COVID-19 & E-commerce Expansion

The COVID-19 pandemic impacts sales but accelerates growth of online operations and home delivery services.

E-commerce sales triple from the previous year.

2021 — 111 Million Members

Costco sales reach record levels at $196 billion supported by over 111 million members.

New warehouses open in Canada, Korea, China, and Taiwan.

2022 — 800 Warehouse Units

Membership has expanded to 124.7 million people worldwide as Costco reaches over 800 warehouse units with additional locations across Asia and Europe.

2023 — $250 Billion

33 new Costco warehouses opened in 2022 alone.

The company now operates 861 locations globally, employing over 300,000 people.

Sales expected to top $250 billion in coming years.