Warehouse retailer Costco Wholesale (NASDAQ:COST) certainly had an interesting year in 2020. Consumers turned to the well-respected bulk goods vendor time after time when COVID-19 guidelines led to fewer shopping trips with larger purchases per visit. Costco ended the first quarter of fiscal year 2021 with 107 million cardholders, up 7.2% from the year-ago reading.

The spring was still difficult because Costco had to adjust its operations to ameliorate the incoming health crisis, just like everybody else. The big earnings surprises came in the summer and autumn reports, giving Costco's share prices two dramatic lifts.

Two children wearing masks while carrying large packs of bathroom tissue in a store.

Image source: Getty Images.

Here's how a $10,000 Costco investment at the start of the year has performed in 2020, as of Dec. 15. We're looking at an impressive total value of $13,180, which works out to a gain of 31.8%. These results assume that you reinvested your dividends into more Costco shares along the way:

COST Total Return Level Chart

COST Total Return Level data by YCharts

Looking ahead, Costco might consider raising its membership fees by $5 per year in 2022, consistent with the company's five-year cadence for contemplating these profit-boosting price increases. On the first-quarter earnings call in early December, CFO Richard Galanti said "time will tell" when the next fee bump arrives, but also that the environment seems to support a quicker increase.

Is Costco a buy today?

The company is poised to keep growing its sales, membership numbers, and bottom-line profits for years to come, with or without an accelerated fee increase. That makes the stock a great buy, even at these soaring share prices.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.