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Costco tops revenue estimates on rebound in demand for low-priced discretionary items

FILE PHOTO: A Costco truck makes a deliver to a Costco store in Carlsbad, California

By Anuja Bharat Mistry

(Reuters) - Costco Wholesale beat third-quarter revenue expectations on Thursday, as cash-strapped consumers flocked to its warehouses to grab low-priced discretionary items and groceries.

The membership-only retailer saw strong momentum for its fresh foods and bakery items including newly added products lemon blueberry loaf and morning buns, and chocolate chop cookie as consumers grappling with still-high cost of living preferred cooking more meals at home.

"As inflation has leveled off, members are returning to purchasing more discretionary items, with growth led by toys, furnishing, lawn and garden supplies as well as health and beauty aids products," CFO Gary Millerchip said on a post-earnings call.

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Earlier this month, retail bellwether Walmart beat quarterly estimates and forecast positive annual targets, supported by steady demand for cheaper groceries and expectations of a rebound in demand for non-essentials.

Another larger peer Target, however, reported a dour quarter on tepid consumer spending.

Costco's total revenue was $58.52 billion for the quarter ended May 12, compared with analysts' average estimate of $58.07 billion, according to LSEG data.

The company also posted a profit of $3.78 per share, above estimates of $3.70.

"In a world where most retailers have suffered from some sort of volatility or pocket of softness, Costco is a rare beacon of consistency," said Scot Ciccarelli, analyst at Truist Securities.

In the first quarter, visits to Costco Wholesale were up 8.9% on a year-over-year basis, while visits to Walmart and Target were up 3.9% and 3.5% respectively, as per Placer.ai data.

Costco's total comparable sales rose 6.5% on an adjusted basis in the quarter, compared to a 3.5% rise last year.

The company's ecommerce comparable sales rose 20.7%, led by gold and silver bullion, gift cards and appliances.

Shares of the company were down 1.7% in after-market trading amid broader market declines.

(Reporting by Anuja Bharat Mistry in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)