Hey, no surprise here -- Costco (NASDAQ:COST) was able to report a decent fourth quarter, capitalizing off an environment where worried consumers seek out bargain prices.

Fourth-quarter net income increased 7% to $397.8 million, or $0.90 per share; this included $0.07 per share in charges related to pre-tax LIFO charges and a charge related to a litigation expense. Net sales increased 13% to $33.63 billion. Same-store sales increased 8%; excluding gasoline price inflation, they lifted 6%.

You may recall that back in July, Costco warned that it would deliver fourth-quarter earnings lower than analysts' expectations for $1.00 per share (although it offered up a consolation prize in the form of an increase in its buyback). That has indeed come to pass, but I'd say that Costco's fourth-quarter results look pretty decent when the consumer is increasingly strapped for cash (not to mention spooked by the macroeconomic environment).

Discount retailers like Costco and Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) are expected to do better than many rivals in this kind of climate. In the discount realm, Target (NYSE:TGT) has been a bit of a laggard lately, and JC Penney's (NYSE:JCP) comps data today showed considerable weakness. Last but not least, despite the discount-centric environment, I still believe another discounter, Sears Holdings (NASDAQ:SHLD), has lost too much traction to other discount retailers who resonate better with consumers. (I still contend that if it's anything like Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A) (NYSE:BRK-B), it's that it's like Berkshire's dorky twin.)

This is a rough environment for retailers, and even the upcoming holiday shopping season may not offer much solace for many of them. Check out our holiday spending poll to see how much Fools are planning to spend this year for gifts.

Costco trades at 20 times trailing earnings, which can certainly be seen as a premium compared to the multiples of its rivals (although note that Sears Holdings is trading at what I'd say is an outlandish P/E of 23, given its recent lackluster performance). In addition, Costco's multiple is about in line with its having increased earnings by 22% in the last year. Still, though, sometimes a premium is in order, and Costco is weathering the economic storm quite well, and plus it's simply a solid, well-run company. I still believe Costco is a great idea for investors, through thick and thin.

Wal-Mart Stores, Sears Holdings, and Berkshire Hathaway are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Costco Wholesale and Berkshire Hathaway are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy.