WinCo Foods isn't just big on self-service -- it's giant. Inside the immense stores (average size is 92,000 sq. ft.) of this mostly employee-owned supermarket chain, customers shop for food in bulk and bag their own groceries. The company's nearly 90 stores in seven western states also feature pizza shops, bakeries, health and beauty products, and organic foods. WinCo Foods, formerly known as Waremart Foods, was renamed as a shortened version of "winning company." The name is also an acronym for its early states of operation, which include Washington, Idaho, Nevada, California, and Oregon. Founded in 1967, employees, past and present, own most of the company.
WinCo's long-held low-price, no-frills strategy has paid off despite the rise of Wal-Mart supercenters in its markets. Indeed, the discount supermarket operator is one of the few grocery chains known to match or beat Wal-Mart on price. Thriving in a sour economy, the company is expanding. The chain entered Utah in 2009 and has grown to number five stores in the Salt Lake City area. To support its growth, it opened a distribution center in Boise, Idaho. The 750,000-sq.-ft. facility has the capacity to supply up to 28 stores in Idaho, eastern and central Washington, and Utah.
In addition to growing in established markets, WinCo Foods is expanding into new ones, such as Arizona and the Las Vegas area. The warehouse chain's first two stores in southern Nevada -- in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson -- opened in spring 2012. WinCo also entered Arizona in 2012 by opening one store in Phoenix and another in Glendale, Arizona. Additionally, the company has delayed an aggressive push into the hyper-competitive Southern California market after purchasing a 130-acre site there in 2010 on which it planned to build a warehouse. Construction of the new distribution center and plans for many more stores are on hold, at least temporarily. – less