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ISSAQUAH, WA-Costco Wholesale Corp. plans another 30 new stores for the 2008 fiscal year, the same number of new locations opened in fiscal 2007, the chain’s management said Thursday in reporting higher sales and profits for the first quarter of the 2008 fiscal year. Company officials discussed the financial results in a conference call Thursday regarding results for the first quarter ended Nov. 25.

The new Costco stores opened in fiscal 2007 represented an increase of about 6.5% in unit growth and slightly more than 6.5% in square footage growth, accoriding to Richard Galanti, Costco’s CFO. Galanti explained that the square footage growth was slightly larger because Costco’s new stores and its relocations tend to be larger than the existing stores.

Costco’s net sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2008 increased 12% to nearly $15.5 billion from approximately $13.9 billion during the first quarter of fiscal 2007. On a comparable store basis, net sales increased 8%.

Galanti said that the US comparable sales figures included the effect of recent gasoline price inflation, with the average sales price per gallon of gasoline up 21% year-over-year for the first quarter. Excluding gasoline price inflation, US comparable sales in the first quarter would have been 4%. In addition, significantly stronger foreign exchange rates, particularly in Canada and the UK, boosted the first quarter’s international comparable sales results.

In addition to the gasoline price inflation and other factors, the comparable store sales increases reflected a combination of an increase in the average transaction size at the company’s stores as well as a higher number of transactions, Galanti said.

Net income for the first quarter increased 11% to $262 million, or 59 cents per diluted share, from $237 million, or 51 cents per diluted share, during the first quarter of fiscal 2007.

Costco operates 529 warehouses, including 389 in the US and Puerto Rico, 75 in Canada, 19 in the UK, five in Korea, five in Taiwan, six in Japan and 30 in Mexico.

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