The supermarket industry is going through the greatest change since right after WWII when suburbanization birthed the idea of today’s supermarkets. In each major market, we had three to four viable chains in an area. But that’s changing so dramatically now.
The traditional supermarket chains are under assault and the prices you pay for groceries are getting cheaper and cheaper.
Ground zero in this battle ground is the state of California. You may recall that I was furious at legislative moves in the Golden State that effectively banned Wal-Marts to protect the traditional players at the behest of the unions.
But you can’t suppress the free market. The world’s largest retailer is now moving in with dozens of Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market stores that are a much smaller format than you’re used to.
Meanwhile, there’s another player in California that has opened store after store below the radar, away from the scrutiny of the state legislature. That’s employee-owned WinCo Foods. They build no frills supermarkets that are literally the size of a Costco. I haven’t been to one yet, but I’m looking forward to it.
People love the WinCo shopping experience. They print an aisle directory for every store so you’re not overwhelmed by the size and you know where everything is. But take note that most WinCo locations don’t accept credit cards.
In addition to being in California, WinCo is also in Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah. As they saturate the West, my hope is they move East.
In California, you also have Trader Joe’s and Fresh & Easy. The opportunity to save money is everywhere. Unions tried to put Fresh & Easy out of business by making it a crime to have self-checkout. I believe that unions have a reasonable purpose in our nation. I’m not a union hater as some people believe. But when a union exists to prohibit a business that wants to compete, that’s not OK to me.
It’s up to you to decide if you never want to set foot in a Wal-Mart, WinCo or Fresh & Easy. But you should decide, not some state legislature bowing to the wishes of a special interest group.
You have to allow the free market to be free.