Costco expands into China’s online market

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Costco, the world’s seventh largest retailer headquartered in King County, has been growing its international presence for quite some time – its warehouses can be found in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, and Spain. Today marks the company’s first official foray into China, Washington State’s #1 two-way trading partner, thanks to a partnership with Alibaba Group and its Tmall Global Platform.

Costco, in partnership with Alibaba, has opened an online flagship store on, China’s largest third-party platform for brands and retailers. The site allows foreign companies to sell their products into China without needing to open a physical store. Costco plans to initially offer food and healthcare products plus its Kirkland Signature products. “Costco sees tremendous growth opportunities in China, especially in light of Chinese consumers’ increasing appetite for imported products. We have chosen a great partner, Alibaba, for the official launch of Costco’s Flagship Store.” notes Jim Murphy, Costco’s Executive Vice President in a statement.

During these first few months, Costco will be carefully analyzing the data from this new site to find out what items are popular and what new items to introduce in later months. Maggie Wu, General Manager of International B2C Division of Alibaba Group, emphasizes that “…Together we will develop and explore innovative market campaigns to unlock Costco’s membership value.”

The new online store can be found here:


Port of Seattle & Port of Tacoma announce plans to form seaport alliance

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

In a statement released yesterday, the Port of Seattle & Port of Tacoma have announced the formation of a new seaport alliance that will unify the management of both ports’ marine cargo terminal operations and related functions. The groundbreaking decision will allow for both ports to retain their existing commission governance and asset ownership, but will allow for unprecedented cooperation as the global shipping industry only continues to become more globally competitive. “The ports of Seattle and Tacoma face fierce competition from ports throughout North America, as shipping lines form alliances, share space on ever-larger vessels and call at consolidated terminals at fewer ports,” said Port of Tacoma Commission President Clare Petrich. “Working together, we can better focus on financially sustainable business models that support customer success and ensure our ability to reinvest in terminal assets and infrastructure.”

Together, the Ports of Seattle & Tacoma are the third-largest container gateway in North America, and its marine cargo operations supports more than 48,000 jobs. The new alliance will manage the ports marine cargo terminal investments and operations as well as planning and marketing. Where we were once rivals, we now intend to be partners,” said Stephanie Bowman, co-President of the Port of Seattle Commission. “Instead of competing against one another, we are combining our strengths to create the strongest maritime gateway in North America.”

The Port of Seattle & Tacoma commissions will formally adopt and submit this Interlocal Agreement  (ILA) to the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) for approval at a joint meeting on October 14th.  Once the ILA is approved by the FMC and after a period of due diligence, it is expected that Port of Tacoma CEO, John Wolfe, will be hired as the CEO of the new Seaport Alliance.



Starbucks to acquire Japanese Coffee Partner

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Seattle’s most famous coffee chain is making big moves in Japan, where it plans to buy out its partner, Sazaby League, for $913 million. Already it’s largest market outside of the U.S. in terms of store sales, Starbucks is using this acquisition to take full ownership of Starbucks Japan and further expand in the country.

In a press statement, the company explains the opportunity for continued growth in Japan and the potential to introduce new store concepts such as Teavana. The acquisition will be a two-step process and is expected to be completed sometime early next year. Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, notes that “Japan is a market we know well and care deeply about, with more than 25,000 partners serving millions of customers every week at more than 1,000 stores.”

Fun Fact: The first Starbucks store that opened outside of the U.S. was in Tokyo, Japan nearly 20 years ago


Columbia Asia Pouring 150M into Southeast Asia, India Hospital Network

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Columbia Asia, a Seattle-based firm that operates a chain of hospitals in Southeast Asia and India, announced earlier this week that it will be investing another $150 million into its hospital network. The investment will help expand the network to up to 34 hospitals and one clinic by 2018.

As the populations in Southeast Asia and India continue to rapidly grow and enter the middle class, modern hospitals that can provide high-quality and affordable healthcare is in high demand. Columbia Asia predicted this need over 20 years ago and was able to come up with an innovative and successful business model to create clusters of hospitals in large urban areas. The company currently has more than 8,000 employees serving 2 million patients every year in its 26 hospitals and one clinic, serving the countries of Malaysia, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

Today, they have a strong and well respected brand in the region, making it easier to continue opening new hospitals. In the last few months they have already opened four new hospitals, 2 in Indonesia and 2 in India. “No other healthcare provider in Asia has hospitals in as many countries operating under a single brand,” said Daniel R. Baty, the founder of Columbia Pacific Management. Columbia Asia has also been able to help expand insurance coverage in the region. When they first started in Malaysia, most patients paid directly for their care. Today, 70% of their patients have coverage.

Columbia Asia’s parent company, Columbia Pacific Management, also owns Cascade Healthcare which builds and operates senior living facilities in China.



Sea-Tac Airport #1 in North America for Reducing Carbon Emissions

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

This past weekend, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport was recognized for reducing its carbon emissions by a worldwide independent program. Over the weekend at a special ceremony, Sea-Tac was honored with a Level 2 certification bestowed by the Airport Council International‘s Airport Carbon Accreditation program. The certificate was rewarded in part for Sea-Tac reducing its airport terminal carbon emissions by 8 percent in 3 years.

What makes this particularly significant is that Sea-tac was the first airport in North America to be awarded this certificate, establishing itself as a leader in the U.S. for environmental stewardship. In a statement, Port of Seattle Commission Co-President Stephanie Bowman stated “Next year we expect to go even further in the certification as part  of our Century Agenda goal to reduce aircraft related emissions by 25 percent at Sea-Tac…”

In addition to Sea-tac in North America, there are 86 certified airports in Europe, 20 in the Asia Pacific, and 1 in Africa.

This news is also heartening after the completion of the Boao Forum Seattle Conference this past weekend, which brought in top leaders and experts from the US and the Asia Pacific to discuss climate change – the Port of Seattle was an affiliate sponsor of the conference.



Seattle’s Holland America Building Large Ship in Italy

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Cruise Line Holland America is one of seven major cruise lines that contribute to Seattle’s booming cruise industry that sends waves of profit throughout the city. Each year the Seattle cruise industry generates more than 3,000 jobs and close to $4 million in annual business revenue. Recently Holland America announced that it will be introducing a new cruise ship to its Seattle fleet which is expected to arrive sometime in February of 2015.

The ship, which will be Holland Americas biggest ship yet, is currently being built at Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard in Italy. Being over 99 thousand gross-tons, the new cruise ship is expected to board 2,650 guests. “As the largest ship ever built for Holland America Line, the vessel features many innovations and new features, and we’re excited to see it all come together over the next year and a half,” said Stein Kruse, president and CEO of Holland America Line, in a statement. This new addition for Holland America is expected to bring even more business to the Seattle area due to its size and by being the 16th addition to Holland America’s fleet.


Nordy’s Canada Bound

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Nordy’s (the US nickname for Nordstrom retailer) is heading north of the border. The Seattle-headquartered company has spent nearly two years prepping for the opening of a flagship store in Calgary, Canada. Nordstrom’s has been cautious with their new market entry and taken lessons from Target’s recent opening of 140 stores in Canada. Instead of an expedited presence that may leave shelves empty of products, Nordstrom will opt for a 6 store expansion strategy over the next 36 months. With high luxury comes the high price of expansion. Red ink will flow with Canada operating losses expected to be at 35million in 2014. Once fully operational with 10 department stores and 20 of its Rack outlets the bottom line predicts 1 billion in annual revenue.

Who is spearheading this expansion? The President of Nordstrom Canada is Karen McKibbin. Alongside her are five seasoned “expat” Nordstrom veterans that will open the store in Calgary. Other managers will be Canadian and have recently had homegrown HQ training in the greater Seattle area. It’s yet to be seen how the Canadian market will respond to a retailer obsessed with customer service as the selling-point rather than frequent discounting of prices. Nordstrom’s is banking on the higher spending habits per Canadian consumer and appreciation of quality will have locals calling them ‘Nordy’s’ in no time.


German Company Opening Facility in Everett

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Greater Seattle is currently undergoing a region-wide initiative to attract more Foreign Direct Investment, in partnership with JPMorgan Chase and the Brookings Institution. One advantage we have already is being home to some of the top global brands in the world, which draws individual talent and businesses who hope to become partners, suppliers, distributors, etc etc.

No company does it better than Boeing, whose significant manufacturing presence here has drawn hundreds of aerospace and advanced manufacturing companies from all over the world to Greater Seattle. The latest company to do so is Kuka Aerospace, a German robot maker. Kuka announced plans to open a 29,000 square foot plant in Everett next to Boeing, which will employ up to 75 people and function as a maintenance and service center.

Part of the reason for Kuka’s move to Everett is because it has partnered with Boeing on building a robotic system called the Fuselage Automated Upright Build (FAUB). In laments terms, FAUB will have robots install fasteners to the fuselage, previously done by hand, maximizing efficiency during production. Robots already are involved in key parts of the Boeing plane assembly process, such as the painting of the plane.

We welcome Kuka Aerospace to Everett!


Local gourmet popcorn company in demand worldwide

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Apples, cherries, wine, chocolates, almond roca, and of course coffee are some of the many food and beverage items our state produces that are in high demand all over the world. And now we can add gourmet popcorn to the list. KuKuRuZa, a Seattle gourmet popcorn company headquartered in the International District, is finding that its popcorn is greatly desired overseas. It’s newest store in Tokyo, Japan has been hugely successful, so much so that the average wait is 2 hours and customers are offered tickets with a specific time to return.

The company has also franchised with Saudi Arabia and Egypt thanks to persistent requests by Middle Eastern investors – opening three stores in Riyadh and three stores in Cairo respectively. The owner of KuKuRuZa, Grant Jones, noted that they were careful in choosing overseas partners that already had experience in franchising American products and brands. He also works with these overseas stores in testing new flavor ideas – one of the Cairo stores helped develop an Egyptian mango flavor.

Congrats to KuKuRuZa on its international success. It makes this writer want to wander a couple blocks to their 3rd and Pike location to see what all the fuss is about…



Costco opening third store in the State of Victoria, Australia

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Costco, the sixth largest retailer in the world which was founded in Seattle and is currently headquartered in nearby Issaquah, is expanding in Southern Australia. It will open a store at the Moorabbin Airport in Melbourne, which is located in the state of Victoria in Southeast Australia. The Planning Minister of Victoria, Mr. Matthew Guy, announced that the store will create around 400 jobs, noting that “It is great news for Melbourne’s south and east and it again shows that Victoria is doing exceedingly well in confidence and economic growth…”

This will be the third Costco in Victoria, which already has opened successful stores in the suburbs of Docklands and Ringwood in Melbourne. Melbourne is the capital of Victoria and second most populous city in Australia. Mr. Guy explained in his remarks that Costco was concentrating its investment efforts in Victoria because “They see it as a strong and growing market.”

Australia is one of Costco’s fastest growing markets outside of the US. At the end of 2013, more than 100,000 members signed up for Costco in Melbourne and Sydney. As a result Costco decided to funnel $110 million to its Australian operations. In addition to the 3 stores in Melbourne, it has 2 stores in Sydney and one in Brisbane.