business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Idaho Statesman has a piece about WinCo, the value-driven supermarket chain, noting that retail expert Burt Flickinger III describes it variously as "the best retailer in the Western US," "unstoppable," and "Wal-Mart’s worst nightmare."

The story notes that "Flickinger is far from the only fan of the Boise-based company. Its lack of a membership fee for access to lower-priced goods made it popular enough to grow from a single store on Overland Road east of Orchard Street in 1967 into a regional chain with about $5.5 billion in sales last year, making it one of Idaho’s largest for-profit companies.

"WinCo has almost 15,000 employees and close to 100 stores open or coming soon. It has two stores opening in 2014 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and plans additional locations in Texas, its latest conquest. The company is privately held and doesn’t disclose profits."

But ... while WinCo plays its cards close to the vest, there are some basic ways in which the company is different.

For one thing, the company is largely owned by its employees, which means that everybody is motivated to be efficient and effective. For another, WinCo cuts out the middlemen, using its own trucks to pick up product from manufacturers and deliver it directly to stores. And, it runs on cash, not debt ... which has its own obvious advantages.
KC's View:
Great company. I think that Burt Flickinger is absolutely right - it appears to be unstoppable, in part because it seems to be totally focused on what its mission is, and how to best achieve it. Texas will be a test, especially because HEB is going to put up a fight ... but WinCo is going to be among the toughest competitors that HEB has faced.