Costco to accept food stamps nationwide

Wed Oct 28, 2009 5:25pm EDT

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* Roll-out comes after accepting food stamps in NY clubs

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By Nicole Maestri

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Costco Wholesale Corp (COST.O) will accept food stamps at its U.S. warehouse clubs nationwide, its chief financial officer said, expanding a test it reluctantly began at its New York clubs five months ago.

"Given the economic times and hardships out there, this is a valuable tool for some of our members," Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.

Customers pay an annual fee of $50 or more to shop in Costco's warehouse club, and the No. 1 U.S. warehouse club operator did not expect there would be much demand among its shoppers to pay for purchases with food stamps.

But at the end of May, under pressure from local politicians, Costco began a pilot program to accept food stamps at some of its New York City locations. [ID:nN27264600]

The number of Americans on food stamp assistance rose in July to a record 35.85 million, the seventh month in a row of record-setting participation, according to the most recent U.S. government data.

Galanti said Costco found that food stamps are helpful for some of its members, especially those who are turning to such benefits to "bridge the gap" after they are laid off.

Galanti said the roll-out will not involve a significant expense for Costco.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc's (WMT.N) Sam's Club and BJ's Wholesale Club Inc BJ.N accept food stamps at their locations.

Costco shares closed down 43 cents, or less than 1 percent, at $56.72. (Reporting by Nicole Maestri, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)




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