Uline is a privately held American company which offers shipping and other business supplies. Uline was founded in 1980 by Elizabeth and Richard Uihlein. It has more than 7,000 employees and is headquartered in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. Uline has distribution centers throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Uline was founded in 1980 by Liz and Richard "Dick" Uihlein after inheriting money from the Schlitz beer fortune. After recognizing a local need for a shipping supply distributor, the Uihleins started Uline from their basement. The company's first product was the H-101 carton sizer. Its success enabled the Uihleins to move into a new headquarters in Waukegan, Illinois.
Over the 1980s and 1990s, Uline greatly expanded. Operations began in Minnesota, California and New Jersey. Uline sold over 4,000 products, all detailed in its product catalog.
In the 2000s, Uline began operations in Mexico and Canada and opened distribution centers in Illinois, Texas, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. The Uline catalog grew to 450 pages, giving customers a look at over 17,000 products.
In 2008, Uline announced it was constructing a brand-new headquarters in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. The move was partially motivated by the Uihleins' ties to Wisconsin; Dick's family had lived in Milwaukee and worked at the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company, and the couple owns a home and restaurant in Manitowish Waters. Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle expected 1,000 jobs would move to Southeastern Wisconsin, and pledged $6 million to support the move. The 200-acre headquarters opened in the summer of 2010, featuring offices for Uline staff and a 1-million square foot warehouse which supplies products to distribution centers. Due to increasing growth, an expansion consisting of a second office building and warehouse was announced in 2014. Construction began in early 2016 and was completed in 2017. The expansion brought about 800 additional jobs to Pleasant Prairie.
In 2019, Uline began considering a second major expansion: two more distribution centers with a combined area of over 1.7 million square feet. The distribution centers would complement two existing Uline distribution centers in Pleasant Prairie.
In 2014, the company was estimated to have $2 billion in revenue and more than 6,000 employees. As of February 2020, the company reported having over 6,700 employees and over $5.8 billion in revenue. Uline is a family operation: Liz Uihlein serves as president and chief executive officer, her husband Dick is chairman of the board of directors, their children are company executives, and Dick's brother Steve serves as a vice president, The company has a conservative dress code, with ties mandatory for men, panythose and skirts for women between November and April, and tattoos discouraged.
An important marketing tool for Uline is its product catalog, which has been produced since its founding. Mailed twice a year, the catalog is 800 pages long and advertises over 37,500 products. Uline also relies on extensive online advertising. The company is not believed to have a communications department, and maintains a low profile on social media. Liz frequently writes missives for the catalog, some of which reflect her political views.
The Uline headquarters is located on 200 acres (81 ha) in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. The headquarters consists of two buildings: a 279,000 square feet (25,900 m2) facility, and a newer (2017) building of about the same size.
As of May 2020, Uline has US distribution centers in Allentown, Pennsylvania; Braselton, Georgia; Coppell, Texas; Hudson, Wisconsin; Kenosha, Wisconsin; Lacey, Washington; Ontario, California; and the Wisconsin headquarters warehouses in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. It also has Canadian distribution centers in Milton, Ontario and Edmonton, Alberta and Mexican distribution centers in Mexicali and Apodaca.
Liz and Richard Uihlein are megadonors to conservative and Republican causes. The company and its employees also have extensively donated to conservative and Republican-affiliated political action committees; they were among the largest contributors to political campaigns during the 2020 election cycle, contributing over $31 million before June 2020.
On March 13, 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Liz Uhlein said that the media was exaggerating the severity of the virus, saying "At what point do we go back to our normal lives? This has been a huge disruption." Liz Uhlein expressed skepticism about COVID-19 in a September 2020 interview, and the company and the Uihlens had pushed back against Democratic Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers' response to the pandemic.
There were a variety of media reports about COVID-related health lapses at the company, including an August visit by Liz to Canada and a July complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which the filing employee withdrew after a satisfactory response from the company. In November 2020, Liz Uihlein sent out a company-wide email in which she admitted she and Dick had contracted COVID-19 and, in late February 2021, The Guardian reported the company had experienced an overall infection rate of 14% compared to a rate of 8.7% in Kenosha County, Wisconsin, where the company is headquartered.