Bi-Mart wants you to join the club. The retailer operates some 75 general merchandise membership stores throughout Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. (About 20 are in the Portland area.) Just $5 buys a lifetime membership to the deep-discount chain, which has enrolled more than 1 million members to date. Stores offer automotive departments, clothing and shoes, food and alcohol, housewares, full-service pharmacies, and photo departments, with a focus on national brands. A pioneer in membership-based retail, Bi-Mart was started in 1955 by a group of investors in Yakima, Washington. The firm was bought by CEO Marty Smith and other senior managers from Rite Aid Corp.Bi-Mart is owned by its employees.
Oregon, home to more than three-quarters of Bi-Mart stores, is the company's largest market by far. The regional retailer is growing in Washington, where is has about a dozen stores. It has just a few in Idaho.
After a hiatus during the recession, during which Bi-Mart focused on touting its value pricing and stocking plenty of consumables rather than adding new stores, the regional retailer is looking to grow in suburban areas that it perceives as underserved by discount chains. To that end, in 2013 it expanded to Aberdeen, Washington with a new store there on a site recently vacated by Rite-Aid. (The Aberdeen store is the retailer's first west of the Cascades, with the exception of a store in Vancouver.)
Unlike its larger warehouse club rivals, such as Costco or Sam's Club, Bi-Mart bills itself as a "not too big and not too small" easy and comfortable place to shop where customers don't need to buy a six-month's supply to save money. The stores carry more than 40,000 items, many tailored to local tastes and needs. Its pharmacies, which fill more than 4 million prescriptions annually, offer discounts on generic drugs, online refills, and immunizations.
Bi-Mart is owned by its employees. – less