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By Burt P. Flickinger III, managing Director, Strategic Resource Group
Editor's Note: An interesting past year has given rise to some subtle yet significant changes on the latest edition of Progressive Grocer’s annual Super 50 ranking of the top grocery retailers. With this in mind, PG enlisted retail food industry expert Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, to share candid observations and in-depth insights about select retail newsmakers on the annual retail leaderboard. His assessment of nine retailers – which are segmented into four parts and which draws on his personal and professional opinions and years of research, as well as from archival data contained in the 10th anniversary of PG’s Super 50 in 1975 – appears in a new PG online exclusive feature, The Flickinger Files.
WinCo – ranked No. 20 on PG's Super 50
WinCo is the best ESOP, or employee owned company in the western U.S. Whether entering a newer market, like the Phoenix and Glendale, AZ stores on opposite ends of Bell Blvd. or Texas, WinCo can beat Walmart in key markets.
WinCo will not work with food manufacturers that do not give WinCo the "Robinson Patman" price (proportionate and fair relative to Walmart and Costco). By insisting on a level playing field on cost of goods (COGS) with Walmart, et al., WinCo can meet and beat Walmart on key item pricing.
Given their profit and stock participation, WinCo's team members take great care of the customers while maintaining excellent store conditions and standards.
As WinCo has evolved from Waremart and Cub Foods to WinCo as a "winning company" for its employee owners, WinCo appears unstoppable as it grows from its first 100 stores to potential geometric growth in the decade ahead.
Roundy's – ranked No. 24 on PG's Super 50
Roundy's is going though some challenging financial transitions as it recapitalizes its debt from converting from a co-op to a publicly held company.
Roundy's exited its Rainbow stores in the Minneapolis-St. Paul markets where no Rainbow owners had been able to achieve the sales and market that seminal merchant and Rainbow operator, Sid Applebaum achieved.
With the buyout of highly capable, multi store Pick 'n Save operators, like Frank Serio, in Wisconsin, Roundy's lost some of the volume per store in Wisconsin that some of the strong independent co-op operators consistently generated.
The move to Chicagoland with Mariano's stores has been aggressive throughout the region. The challenge may be high property/lease prices and smaller shopping centers with limited power retail co-anchor and in-line retailers, which is a challenge that numerous Chicago area food retailers face. The Mariano's stores are popular in the greater Chicago market, so the challenge is accelerating to favorable cash on cash investment returns as the newer stores start to mature.
After selling and closing the proud and previously extremely popular Rainbow stores in Minnesota, Roundy's very significant cap-ex commitment to Chicago may be a big, possible "bet the company" initiative as Roundy's Pick 'n Save is facing well capitalized, highly capable competition in Wisconsin.