Meet The Employee-Centered Company That Could Eventually Take Down Wal-Mart

wincoPrices as good or better than Wal-Mart? Healthcare coverage with dental and vision as low as $40 a month for employees? It’s not some stereotypical crunchy granola liberal health food co-op store in Brooklyn or San Francisco, it’s a company that has expanded across the Western United States (including Arizona and two new stores just opened in Texas) and it could be going nationwide before long.

WinCo Foods, Boise, Idaho, is scheduled to open its first two Texas stores on Thursday, with at least three more Texas locations due over the next 13 months, the company said.
The first two stores will be in Fort Worth and McKinney, Texas, on opposite sides of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, with each covering approximately 95,000 square feet, said Mike Read, the company’s spokesman.
Three additional stores are likely to open in Texas during the company’s fiscal year, which begins April 1, Read said — in Duncanville, North Richland Hills and Lewisville. (Source)

Yes, you heard that right. Red states Texas and Arizona now have an employee owned and operated *gasp* “socialist” company which can provide groceries at the same or cheaper prices than Wal-Mart. This isn’t some flash in the pan, fly by night corporation either. WinCo was originally established in 1967 and became employee owned in 1985. They’re privately owned by the employees, and they brag about it on their website:

For over 40 years WinCo Foods has fostered a tradition of success by focusing on very large stores with a wide selection of national brands at prices below our competition. In addition, the very nature of having employee stockholders that have seen their Employee Stock Ownership Plan (Pension Plan) grow at a 21.51% annual compound growth rate creates an extremely dedicated workforce. This has made WinCo a very successful company, one which in 1998 was listed as #266th on Forbes Magazine’s List of 500 largest Privately Held Companies and recently in 2011 holding to the 66th spot on the list.

WinCo is continuing this record of success, now operating 93 Employee Owned Stores in seven states (Washington, Idaho, California, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Arizona and Texas) with nearly 15,000 employees and continues to grow by opening new stores and adding new members to the company every year. (Source)

How good are these pension plans? This good:

The company also has a pension, with employees getting an amount equal to 20% of their annual salary put in a plan that’s paid for by WinCo; a company spokesperson told the Idaho Statesman that more than 400 nonexecutive workers (cashiers, produce clerks and such) currently have pensions worth over $1 million apiece. (Source)

Ok, 93 locations in 7 states isn’t even close to being in the same league as Wal-Mart currently finds itself sitting in all alone, but it shows that you CAN take care of your employees AND still be a profitable company. Because they’re not a publicly traded entity, they don’t have stockholders demanding ever larger returns on dividends every quarter at the the expense of both the consumer and the employees. The employees are the stockholders and the better the company does, the better they do. Crazy concept isn’t it? Oh yeah, and they’re also eco-friendly – and they’re expanding.

I’ve hated Wal-Mart ever since they put many of the stores out of business in the town that I grew up in nearly two decades ago, and I don’t find Target that much more palatable either. If WinCo can thrive and expand in Texas, I fully expect that they will be able to do so across the rest of the United States and finally give Wal-Mart the competition they so desperately need. It’s about time.

About Manny Schewitz

Manny Schewitz is a Progressive from the Dirty South with an inclination to say it like it is. He is a co-founder of Forward Progressives, and also maintains a popular Facebook page, "Whiskey and the Morning After Blog."
You can also find him on Twitter @WATMAB. Be sure to check out Manny's archives for more of his viewpoints.

  • David Clayton

    Winco is SERIOUSLY NEEDED in GADSDEN, ALABAMA. Please! Please! Open a store here. We have several empty old FOOD WORLD/BRUNOS store buildings that have been abandoned. Food World was way too expensive for this area and Gadsden, AL is one of the poorest cities/towns in the nation. Walmart is ripping people off left and right here and claiming to be cheaper than anyone else.

  • David Gray

    The WinCo here in Las Vegas is a good store, but hardly a ‘great’ store. Better than Walmart? Maybe, but not enough so that I would drive across town. This points to WinCo’s inherent weakness. They’ve been in business since the 1960s, but have only managed expansion into 7 states, all contiguous except Texas, with a limited number of of stores in each of those states. By comparison, here in Las Vegas, there are 26 Walmart stores, including their neighborhood markets. When WinCo becomes more convenient, they will be more competitive…

  • Starr Johnson

    Bring a Winco to Tonopah, Nevada! I am tired of driving almost 500 miles to shop there!

  • Michael Nuckles

    MOVE TO MISSOURI!!!!! Lets see some open up around the KC area :)

  • Deirdra Johnson

    I would love to have a WinCo in Arkansas!