Savvy Phoenix shoppers may have noticed a new chain of grocery stores popping up around town. WinCo Foods is a new player in a landscape that has been dominated by Safeway, Albertson's, Wal-Mart, Food City, and Fry's.
So here's the lowdown on WinCo Foods: the company was founded in 1967 and is headquartered in Boise, Idaho. Prior to 1999, they were known as Waremart Food Centers.
Their first store opened in Phoenix in 2012. They have 5 valley locations in Phoenix, Glendale, Mesa, and a new one in Gilbert.
If you are thinking about checking them out, there are a couple of things you should know about WinCo Foods:
1). WinCo does
NOT take credit cards! They accept cash, debit cards, and WIC/food stamps. The company claims that
by not paying merchant fees, they can pass the savings on to you in the
form of lower prices.
2). You must bag your own groceries at the checkout. The company does not employ baggers - again, a cost-saving measure.
3). All store locations are open 24 hours. Yes that's right, you can avoid the crowds and get your groceries at 1:00am if that works better for you.
4). They have a
"Bulk Foods" section. You can buy uncooked pasta, dry cereal, baking
ingredients, and other dry goods in bulk in the "bag-it-yourself"
section. You can even find things like honey! Big savings here.
5). The company is employee-owned. That means every person who works there has a personal interest in helping you, because ultimately it helps them.
Now that we've got the basics covered, let me share with you some of my own thoughts about WinCo.
It's clear that they aim to take a big chunk out of the existing grocery markets. WinCo is just about running a smear campaign against Fry's and Wal-Mart, and it's a price war. A common advertisement shows three receipts having purchased the same brand-name, common household items from each store. WinCo's prices are dramatically lower than the competition.
In my experience, the prices ARE actually lower. But I have found the selection to be lacking. Wal-Mart has regular Strawberry Pop-Tarts and Low-Fat Strawberry Pop-Tarts. WinCo only carries the regular ones. Fry's has three different size boxes of Cheerio's including the 2-for-1 box, WinCo only has 2 sizes. They also don't seem to carry as many brands as the other stores, which is particularly noticeable if you happen to like up-and-coming or natural/organic brands.
There's just something a little bit off about shopping at WinCo. The stores are bright and as clean and sterile as an operating room. But there's a certain something missing from their stores.
When you walk in the door at Wal-Mart, there will often be a big display of soda cases themed after the Superbowl or some major holiday. There are signs and banners and WinCo just doesn't have any of these. The stores are very plain and offer a no-nonsense shopping environment without any distractions. It seems a little weird.
If you like the convenience of shopping 24 hours, in a store that's completely spotless and saving money, this might be the place for you - so long as you're willing to deal with bagging your own groceries and not using your credit card!