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The North West Co., the oldest retailer on the North American continent, is acquiring Cost-U-Less – which operates about a dozen warehouse club stores in Hawaii, the South Pacific and the Caribbean – for about $50 million (US). To this point, North West Co. has operated more than 200 stores in Canada and Alaska, and this move is expected to help the company develop a broader marketing as well as geographic palette.

One company executive told MNB, “Like us, Cost-U-Less is a market leader and has expertise in the complexity of serving difficult to reach locations that are challenged by long supply chains, weather and geography. And like us, Cost-U-Less serves both indigenous and newer, transient residents with wide income ranges. By joining with North West, Cost-U-Less will gain the size, scale and specialized expertise that we have been able to bring to all of our store banners. Cost-U-Less also offers the rest of North West and Alaska Commercial Company expertise in how to buy and sell warehouse products, including the opportunity to assess whether mid-sized warehouse stores could someday be part of our business in Alaska and in Canada.”

The deal is expected to close before the end of the year.
KC's View:
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of spending some time with the folks at North West, and to get a sense of how they define and deliver on neighborhood marketing. And let me tell you, these folks deal with operational issues that few of us ever have to consider – like making sure the supply chain runs smoothly enough so that ships delivering product to remote locations get out before the ice freezes them into one place for the winter. I was extremely impressed by a company that doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the word cookie-cutter, and by people who have a real desire to expand their horizons.

In fact, the only downside to my visit was the fact that it was the middle of winter – and I was about as cold as I’ve ever been. That said, the people were warm…and that’s really all you can ask.