As a fourth-generation family owned grocery store chain, Winegars Supermarkets Inc. has had to adapt with the times to remain relevant in the grocery landscape. Over the years, Winegars Supermarkets has morphed from a convenience store with gas pumps outside and food inside, to a warehouse business model and then into today’s fresh-food format.
Through it all, however, the Winegar family has maintained a dedication to quality and customer service that has kept the company in business since 1917. With CEO Weston Winegar at the helm today, Winegars Supermarkets is poised to take on the next challenge in the grocery business – the increasing speed of technology.
“I’d attribute our success to adaptability. The market and customer needs are consistently changing,” Winegar explains. “We have undertaken fundamental changes to keep up with the market and the customers’ needs and wants.”
Thomas E. Winegar founded Winegars Supermarkets in 1917 in Woods Cross, Utah, as The Woods Cross Mercantile. More than 90 years later, Winegars Supermarkets remains one of the oldest family-owned supermarkets in the state of Utah, boasting locations in Bountiful, Roy and Clearfield.
Bringing in Technology
Winegar believes the only way an independent family owned grocer can successfully compete with larger chains and other independent businesses is through a dedication to technology. He admits, however, that it is difficult to keep up with large corporations that seem to have unlimited financial resources to bring in new technology as soon as it is available.
“We have a disadvantage in technology,” Winegar says. “With the cost of these systems, we find that large chain corporations have adopted these technologies and can spend hundreds of millions of dollars to adopt new technologies and recognize relevant efficiencies. The cost for a small local store to remain competitive is a big challenge.”
Upgrading When Possible
Winegars Supermarkets is doing what it can with the technology it can afford. For instance, Winegar says the company has created a social media presence on Facebook and an e-mail campaign to reach out to potential customers through the Internet.
“The cost and efficiencies in the technology market are improving and we’re getting more personal with things that are not so cost-prohibitive,” Winegar says.
For the future, Winegars Supermarkets is exploring the possibility of adding a 360-degree scanning system. The technology allows customers to place their items on a conveyor like traditional checkout systems, except the products are scanned through a 360-degree perimeter without the aid of a cashier. Winegar says the system processes checkouts three times faster than traditional systems and frees up employees to focus on customer service.
“As far as service and checkouts, it is considerably faster than current checkout systems,” he says. “Employees can spend time bagging groceries for customers and taking care of customer’s needs. We can have more guest interaction with lower labor costs.”
This technology is prominent in Europe, according to Winegar, so he believes it is a few years away from arriving in the United States. There will be a few bugs to work out of the system, as well. For instance, Winegars Supermarkets would have to train its workforce and customers on how to use the new scanning system, and Winegar will not make the move to the system until he determines it will be worthwhile.
“There are some barriers to educating our customers and ensuring their reaction is will be positive,” Winegar says. “We’ll review the absolute return on investment, payback and customer reaction before we commit to the project.”