Costco's cost-saving ethos extends to its corporate overhead. "Even once we had money, Jim and I drew a relatively modest salary -- $75,000 per year -- for a long time," Brotman says. In 2008 each drew a salary of $350,000, plus an $80,000 bonus. Each also received stock and option awards in excess of $4 million.
Even amid a recession, Coscto has stayed relatively unscathed. "U.S. sales are flat, which is better than what most retailers can say, and international sales are down 9% when converted to U.S. dollars," Sinegal says. "Our attitude has always been that the best companies thrive and build market share during tough times. If they offer a great product and great value, they become even more important to the consumer."