Walmart’s Worst Nightmare? A Chain That Competes on Price, Treats Employees Well

Photo (cc) by Atomic Taco

The chain’s name sounds made up, but one retail and grocery expert says WinCo is “unstoppable” and “Walmart’s worst nightmare.”

“WinCo arguably may be the best retailer in the Western U.S.,” Strategic Resource Group’s Burt Flickinger III told The Idaho Statesman.

The grocery chain started out as Waremart, which sounds even more made up, but it doesn’t appear that the company is trying to copy Walmart in any way.

It buys many of its products directly from farms and factories and sends its own trucks to pick them up, which means fewer options but better prices that compete with and often beat Walmart’s, Time says. It provides health benefits to part-timers, and has a pension plan in which more than 400 nonexecutive workers have more than $1 million each. The average hourly worker stays there for eight years, the Statesman says. The chain has few frills: Customers bag their own groceries and can’t pay with a credit card.

In some ways the WinCo approach sounds like that of another “co” — Costco. But WinCo is much smaller for now, with about 15,000 employees and close to 100 stores, the Statesman says. Costco has more than 100,000 U.S. employees and more than 600 stores, its website says. WinCo also doesn’t charge a membership fee.

It has stores in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Arizona and California, the Statesman says. The company does have plans to expand: Two locations will open in north Texas next year. Flickinger says he sees WinCo “doubling in size every five to seven years going forward.”

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