In addition to 15 different grocery chains, like Ralph's in California and (now) Harris-Teeter in North Carolina, Kroger has a half-dozen convenience store chains, with names like Kwik Stop, Loaf 'n Jug, Tom Thumb, and Turkey Hill. It has low-price stores like Food 4 Less, and four different types of jewelry stores.
Many of Kroger's employees work under union contracts, and Dillon offers a great deal of local autonomy. While he lives a fairly quiet life in Cincinnati, he did draw 500 people to his latest annual meeting, where he talked about expanding into areas Kroger can serve with its present infrastructure, and enhancing "digital marketing," which in this case means computer-delivered coupons and loyalty cards.
While tech people are always looking for the "next Steve Jobs," retailers are always looking for the "next Sam Walton." Could it be he's been under our noses all along?
At the time of publication, the author owned a little over 100 shares of COST.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.