Target Corporation (TGT): How Costco Wholesale Corporation (COST) Keeps an Eye on Competitors

Join The Motley Fool for a video conversation with retired Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ:COST) CEO Jim Sinegal. In love with retail since his first job as a bagger in 1954, Sinegal co-founded Costco and served as president and CEO of the retail giant from 1983 until his retirement in January 2012.

Sinegal is no stranger at Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ:COST) competitors such as Sam’s Club and Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT). He explains his approach to visiting other stores.

To watch the full interview, click here.

Brendan Byrnes: You’re famous for spending a lot of time out in Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ:COST)’s, walking around, seeing the stores, getting really boots on the ground. Do you ever spend time walking through competitors, checking out the landscape to see what they’re doing?

Sinegal: Sure. We do it all the time. That’s part of the business. There is hardly a week that goes by when [current Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ:COST) CEO Craig Jelinek] and I aren’t in a Sam’s. It would be unusual. If we’re on the East Coast, we’re going to be in a BJ’s.

Byrnes: I’d love to be a fly on the wall when you two are walking through.

Sinegal: We do that with a lot of the competitors that we admire. We’re going to be making a trip to Canada here, week after next, and I will guarantee a major portion of the trip Craig and I and Joe Portera [executive vice president and chief operating officer of Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ:COST)’s eastern and Canadian divisions] are going to spend — and our Canadian team — will spend in the new Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT)’s that are up there. We’re going to be looking at everything that they’re doing.

When we opened up in Wheaton, in Maryland here a couple weeks back, the first thing we did that day was go into the Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT). That was easy, because it’s only about 50 yards away. You have to be in the competitors. We’re in the Trader Joe’s all the time. They’re a neighbor of ours over here. We admire them a lot.

You’ve got to be checking the competition, and not just to satisfy yourself that you’re better than the competition, but what is it that they’re doing that really makes a hell of a lot of sense that we should be incorporating into our business? We tell our people, “When you go into a competitor, be looking for the really good stuff.”