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Originally published May 24, 2014 at 8:02 PM | Page modified May 25, 2014 at 12:42 PM

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‘Maravilla’ as Costco opens in Seville

Sunday Buzz: Costco executives in Seville, Spain, for opening of warehouse; lackluster beginnings for local IPOs; Blue Nile ponders change in supply chain.

By Seattle Times business staff


As an old Spanish saying goes, “Quien no ha visto Sevilla, no ha visto maravilla.” “Who hasn’t seen Seville, hasn’t experienced wonder.” It’s Spain’s fourth-largest city, with palaces built on centuries of shiploads of New World gold.

But according to local media, last week it was Seville’s residents who had something to gawk at, as Costco Wholesale’s first store in the eurozone opened there.

Peanut butter was one “exotic” product highlighted by ABC de Sevilla, a local newspaper. It also reported that customers remarked on the unusual heft of 11-pound jars of Nutella.

Spanish newswire EFE also saw something distinctively un-continental in the brief opening ceremony, which, it said, had “U.S. aesthetics and rhythm, including constant applause” during speeches.

Seville Mayor Juan Ignacio Zoido was there on opening day, as throngs lined up to become members, reported the Andalusian newspaper. So were Costco CEO Craig Jelinek and former CEO Jim Sinegal.

Diane Tucci, head of Costco’s Spain operations, says the opening “was awesome.”

Her staff counted 6,000 cardholders coming into the store; if every single one brought a spouse and child, that would mean that some 18,000 people visited the store during the opening, she says. (The company has sold more than 14,000 memberships.)

Tucci adds that rotisserie chicken, a Costco staple in the U.S., was a big hit. So were the waffles, which, like peanut butter, are foreign to Spaniards.

“We had the waffles on demo with Canadian maple syrup,” she said. “They flew out.”

Take-away No. 1 one from the opening: “The people of Seville love waffles.”

—Ángel González:

Latest local IPOs get a poor start

It hasn’t been an auspicious start for the two IPOs from Washington state that launched into the U.S. market this month.

Papa Murphy’s Holdings, owner of the take-and-bake pizza company, priced its initial public offering at $11 on May 1 — and within a week dropped.

By Friday, its shares had lost 15 percent, closing at $9.34.

Alder BioPharmaceuticals priced its IPO at $10, below the previously expected $13 to $15 range.

The stock has clung to that level, closing no higher than $10.19 and no lower than $9.99 since its May 8 debut.

Owners of those stocks could take heart from the example of another local IPO, NanoString Technologies, which went public last summer at a discounted $10 per share yet still fell nearly 20 percent the first day.

Since then, however, riding renewed enthusiasm for biotech and some concrete results for the company, the stock has doubled from those early levels.

— Rami Grunbaum:

Blue Nile ponders adding some inventory

Blue Nile offers plenty of diamonds online — but it owns none of them: They belong to its suppliers, mostly diamond manufacturers and wholesalers, and only come into its possession once a customer clicks “buy.”

That helps Blue Nile minimize costs and offer more variety. But now the Seattle company, which revolutionized diamond retailing with its pioneering website, is thinking of swimming upstream in the diamond pipeline to work more closely with manufacturers and wholesalers, and perhaps even hold a small amount of inventory.

If the company does decide to establish its own hoard of diamonds, it would be “a limited test and not a material change to our business model,” said spokesman Josh Holland.

A closer relationship with suppliers may help the company get the best diamonds to customers and ultimately help reduce pricing volatility.

That said, “We’re still evaluating our options and no decisions have been made,” Holland said.

—Ángel González:

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