After being locked at a four-star rank for years, Costco (Nasdaq: COST) has impressed enough top-performing members of our 170,000-strong Motley Fool CAPS community to finally reach the top five-star level. A total of 3,964 members have given their opinion on the big-box retailer, with many offering analysis and commentary to explain their recent optimism.

CAPS members rave about Costco's business model, which has held up better than many competitors' during the downturn. The current retail environment is still prompting conservative expectations from peers like Target (NYSE: TGT) and Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE: WMT), but many investors believe Costco will continue to do well at attracting budget-conscious customers. As the company continues to post positive same-store sales in recent months, investors like the momentum Costco has been delivering.                            

And Costco doesn't seem to be buckling under the strain of price competition from Wal-Mart, the way BJ's Wholesale Club (NYSE: BJ) and supermarket chains like Safeway (NYSE: SWY) and SUPERVALU (NYSE: SVU) have been. Costco's core merchandise categories of food and sundries have remained strong, with positive sales comparisons in each of its respective subcategories in the fiscal third quarter.    

The effects of the downturn prompted a number of retailers like the struggling Sears Holdings (Nasdaq: SHLD) to close retail stores over the past year. In contrast, CAPS members applaud Costco's plans to continue hunting for more locations for its giant warehouses. The company plans to spend $1 billion on new and remodeled warehouses in fiscal 2010, and it's also remaining flexible in its approach to enter some markets. In an effort to get into some regions where land is scarce, the company is testing the idea of taking up space in vacant department stores, playing the role of a mall anchor. With its expanding presence and strong competitive position, CAPS members are growing more confident about the company's long-term outlook for growth, wherever the economy might head from here.

Do you think Costco deserves its elevated status? Add your thoughts in the comments box below on this page, or head over to CAPS to rate the company and check out all the information and opinions the community offers, absolutely free.

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Fool contributor Dave Mock likes to upgrade his retail shopping experience with a churro or ice cream at checkout. He owns no shares of companies mentioned here. Costco and Wal-Mart are Inside Value selections. Costco is a Stock Advisor pick. The Fool owns shares of Costco and Wal-Mart.

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