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Costco Co-founder Receives NRF Gold Medal Award

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A former discount store bagger who went on to help start the nation’s largest warehouse club claimed NRF’s top honor during Retail’s BIG Show in New York last month.

Costco co-founder Jim Sinegal “was an obvious choice” for the prestigious Gold Medal Award because of his dedication to the retail industry and for “creating such a well-respected culture” throughout his company, NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. The award is given each year to an individual who has served retail with distinction and achieved “a national reputation for excellence.”

Sinegal started as a bagger at California-based FedMart, working his way up to the corporate level before becoming executive vice president of warehouse pioneer Price Club. He left there to open Costco Wholesale with Jeffrey Brotman in Seattle in 1983 and served as president and CEO until 2012. During his tenure, Costco became the largest warehouse chain in the country with 645 stores and annual sales of $103 billion.

Also during the BIG Show, Nike was named Retail Innovator of the Year and South Korea’s Lotte Shopping was named International Retailer of the Year. Half Price Books chief strategy officer Kathy Thomas received NRF’s Silver Plaque, which is given to prominent senior executives, and recently retired Illinois Retail Merchants Association president David Vite received the NRF Lifetime Achievement Award.