Costco Wholesale, the giant bulk and cut-rate retailer that prides itself on social responsibility, high pay and low turnover, has filed a pre-application to build a 162,785-square-foot store on 18.7 acres east of International Golf Parkway, at 655 World Commerce Parkway. Once built, the store would be within 36 miles of Palm Coast Parkway, considerably closer than the two Jacksonville locations on Gate Parkway and Parramore Road.
Clearly, the geographical location of the store seeks to tap into the Flagler-Palm Coast market as much as the St. Johns market, cutting into the geographical advantage Sam’s Club has enjoyed in Daytona Beach since it opened there in July 2019.
It’s not a done deal: Costco’s pre-application, first reported by the Jacksonville Daily Record, was submitted on Aug. 25 and is pending approval by the St. Johns County Growth Management Department. The application suggests the store will be similar to the ones in Jacksonville, with a tire center, a liquor store and a gas station.
Rumors have long rustled in Palm Coast about a local Costco. In 2011 a Facebook page devoted to bringing a Costco was created, though it didn’t go very far, nor did a petition occasionally found in the lobby of the Government Services Building in Bunnell. But occasional clamors for the store persist.
“The single most asked questions I’ve heard over the 13-plus years of publishing GoToby.com is, ‘When are we going to get a Costco (or Sam’s Club or BJ’S)?’,” Toby Tobin of GoToby wrote last year. “The answer is, ‘Not until we have greater residential and commercial density.'” What was then the relatively new Sam’s Club in Daytona Beach, Tobin explained, “is surrounded by several multi-family zoning districts that allow up to 20 units per acre. Jacksonville, home of the nearest Costco, allows high-density multi-family zones with from 20 to 60 units per acre.”
The proposed complex in St. Augustine would be slightly larger than the average Costco, which carries on average about 4,000 products. The 37-year-old company last year had 546 stores in the United States and more than 200 additional stores worldwide. It employs more than 200 people per store and pays a starting wage of $13 an hour.
The store in St. Augustine would be built on property owned by World Commerce Center LLP, and would be accessible just off of I-95, south of the International Golf Parkway interchange. The two Jacksonville stores opened in 2000 and 2018.
The publicly traded, membership-only company has seen its stock soar since 2009, rising from $44 a share to $373 a share this week, on annual revnue of $163 billion. The coronavirus pandemic has not affected the company: for the nine weeks ending Nov. 1, the company reported net sales of $30.66 billion, a 16.4 percent increase from the comparable time a year ago, and with e-commerce jumping 91 percent.
Costco is also planning a store further south in Martin County, near Stuart, but that plan is drawing some public opposition because of the store’s traffic implications, compounding the effects of an area already experiencing rapid growth.