Costco CEO Craig Jelinek steps down Jan. 1; COO Ron Vakris will take over

  • Costco’s longtime CEO Craig Jelinek is stepping down.
  • He will be succeeded by Ron Vakhris, the company’s Chief Operating Officer.
  • The warehouse club has benefited from sales growth that has fueled epidemic warehouse loading, inflation and millennials moving to the suburbs.

A Costco Wholesale warehouse is seen outside a store in Silver Spring, Maryland on August 5, 2023.

Mandel Naga | Afp | Good pictures

Costco’s longtime CEO Craig Jelinek is leaving the company after the warehouse club’s pandemic- and inflation-fueled growth.

He will be succeeded by Ron Vakhris, the company’s chief operating officer, the company said on Wednesday. The change will come into effect from January 1.

In a news release, Costco said the two executives had worked together for the past two years. It described the move as the “culmination of a long-term succession plan”.

Stocks were flat in after-hours trading on news. So far this year, the company’s shares are up 26% — outperforming both the S&P 500 and the gains of other publicly traded retailers.

Costco has benefited from sales growth, particularly from customers who loaded up their pantries and cooked more during the pandemic, and more recently, as they sought relief from inflated grocery and gas prices. Warehouse clubs, including rival Walmart-owned Sam’s Club, have also gotten a boost from millennials moving to the suburbs.

Over the past year, the retailer’s sales have soared — though it has seen setbacks in some favorite categories, such as jewelry and electronics. In the most recent fiscal quarter, which ended in early September, shoppers visited more but spent less.

Costco’s average transaction amount fell nearly 4.5% in the US in the quarter, while traffic increased 5% on a year-over-year basis.

Vakris, the future CEO, started his career as a forklift driver at Costco. He has been with the company for over 40 years.

Jelinek has been at the helm of the Warehouse Club since January 2012. He will remain a consultant at Costco until April. He also plans to remain on the board of directors, the company said.

Separately, the company said Wednesday that its board has approved a quarterly cash dividend on Costco common stock of $1.02 per share to be paid in mid-November.

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