Costco Wholesale Corp. cofounder and retired president and chief executive officer Jim Sinegal has received the National Retail Federation’s (NRF’s) 2014 Gold Medal Award.

Costco Wholesale Corp., Jim Sinegal, National Retail Federation’s, NRF’s, 2014 Gold Medal Award, Matthew Shay, Kirkland

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NRF honors Costco’s Sinegal

January 27th, 2014

NEW YORK – Costco Wholesale Corp. cofounder and retired president and chief executive officer Jim Sinegal has received the National Retail Federation’s (NRF’s) 2014 Gold Medal Award.

The Gold Medal is a coveted retail honor given to an individual who has served the industry with distinction and achieved a national reputation for excellence. The recipient has also displayed creative genius and inspirational leadership and has won the respect of fellow merchants for devotion to the retail craft.

"Jim was an obvious choice for NRF’s Gold Award, given his commitment to the industry and Costco, and dedication to creating such a well-respected culture throughout the organization he helped build," said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay.

Sinegal, 78, headed Costco from its inception in 1983 until 2012 and remains on the company’s board. During his tenure Costco became the nation’s No. 1 warehouse club in sales. It ended 2011 with 598 clubs in operation in 42 states and around the world, and fiscal year 2011 sales of $87.05 billion. No executive in retailing history led his company from its founding to that level of sales so quickly, so smoothly — and so impressively.
When he stepped down two years ago he said the feeling that overwhelmed all of his others was pride in his ­accomplishments.

"I’m particularly pleased," he said at the time, "with the fact that we have been able to provide 160,000 people worldwide with meaningful jobs. We’ve succeeded by hiring good people, building a team, promoting from within and providing career opportunities at Costco. How well our people have done their jobs can be attested to by the fact that Costco is routinely named one of the 50 best companies in the world."

He also took satisfaction in the chain’s approach to business. "We’ve managed to survive without a public relations or advertising department, and the added costs that these two functions accrue," he noted. "By doing so we’ve managed to cut the structural costs of doing business."

He was also gratified by the level of esteem in which his company was held. "We’re known and admired for good quality, whether in branded products or our Kirkland private label," he said. "We’ve earned that reputation for a simple reason: If it’s not good we pull it off the shelf."

Sinegal said he was particularly pleased with the reputation the Kirkland brand had among the retailer’s members, though he explained it with characteristic understatement: "We do a pretty good job."

He pointed out that the retailer strived to be the best in every area in which it competed. "We’re the No. 1 optical chain," he noted. "Pharmacy is a signature department for us. Out meat department is widely viewed as the best. The reason is simple: We try to be the best. And we try to make shopping easier for our members. That’s why we have 10-foot parking stalls, rather than the traditional nine feet. We don’t want our members denting the bumpers on their expensive cars."

But he consistently returned to one reason above all others for Costco’s success: the quality of its people. He recounted stories of members approaching him at whatever warehouse he happened to be in and confidently telling him that this particular store was the best, because the people who worked there were so professional.