Should Walmart be terrified by this Idaho supermarket?

This grocery store beats Walmart's prices and treats workers well. Is it a new supermarket standard?
Written by Tyler Falk, Contributor

Walmart claims that if they paid their workers more, they wouldn't be able to keep their prices so low. Most recently Walmart made those arguments when the city council in Washington, D.C. was considering a living wage bill that would force Walmart to pay its workers $12.50 per hour instead of the D.C. minimum wage of $8.25. When the bill passed the council, Walmart said it would abandon plans for proposed stores in the city if the bill was signed by the mayor.

But do low-prices have to mean low wages or poor benefits for workers? Time points to one Idaho-based supermarket, WinCo Foods, with about 100 stores in the western United States that's challenging that claim. It's able to beat Walmart's prices and treats workers well. So how does it keep prices so low?

Prices are kept low through a variety of strategies, the main one being that it often cuts out distributors and other middle men and buys many goods directly from farms and factories. WinCo also trims costs by not accepting credit cards and by asking customers to bag their own groceries. Similarly to warehouse membership stores like Sam’s Club and Costco, and also to successful discount grocers with small stores like Trader Joe’s and Aldi, WinCo stores are organized and minimalist, without many frills, and without the tremendous variety of merchandise that’s become standard at most supermarkets. “Everything is neat and clean, but basic,” Hauptman told Supermarket News. “Though the stores are very large, with a lot of categories, they lack depth or breadth of variety.”

As far as worker benefits, health benefits are offered to all workers who work at least 24 hours a week and there's a pension plan which has allowed more than 400 non-executive workers earn pensions over $1 million each.

A no-frills grocery store? If it's like WinCo, it's a supermarket standard it seems like everyone could get used to.

Read more: Time

Photo: Flickr/Ninja M.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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