CBJ — Warehouse club retailer Costco Wholesale reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit as it benefited from paying lower fees to credit card partner Visa and shoppers spent more on appliances, electronics and hardware.

The lower payments helped offset falling prices of grocery and fresh food in the quarter, Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said on a post-earnings call.

Margins at grocery retailers have taken a hit due to lower prices and companies such as Wal-Mart Stores and Dollar General further cutting prices to win market share.

Costco completed the switch to Visa from American Express during the fourth quarter.

Consumer spending in the United states rose 4.3% in the fourth quarter, according to data released by the Commerce Department.

The bump in spending is likely to have helped Costco, which mainly caters to high-income customers.

Net income rose to US$779 million, or US$1.77 per share, in the fourth quarter ended Aug. 28, from US$767 million, or US$1.73 per share, a year earlier.

The retailer reported a 2% rise in quarterly sales to US$35.73 billion.

For the fourth quarter, it also reported a 1% drop in sales at U.S. stores open more than a year. Excluding the impact of fuel and currency fluctuations, sales at U.S. comparable stores rose 2%.

@CanBizJournal