The Grocery Store War is a raging inferno that is engulfing the metro Charlotte area. Stores are battling it out for the title of champion. But will there be just one? Find out in our third installment of Grocery Store War coverage.
Part 1: Store by Store
Publix will be opening several locations in the greater Charlotte area through the end of 2015. Publix also plans on opening stores in Winston-Salem, Asheville, & the Raleigh suburb of Cary. A Charlotte-based developer also proposed a new Publix in North Raleigh, but residents strongly opposed the rezoning that would come with it. In addition, Publix plans on opening two new stores in Myrtle Beach by early 2015. And earlier this month, Publix sent site selectors to Wilmington & the surrounding areas to scope out future sites for Publix stores. Although they haven’t officially announced any planned locations, it’s likely that they’ll open at least one store in Wilmington, especially since the area has been a hotspot for grocery stores like Harris Teeter, Whole Foods, Lowes Foods & Trader Joes, who all opened new stores in the Port City recently. In addition to grocery stores, Time Warner Cable opened their first concept store in Wilmington’s Mayfaire Town Center last year & plans on opening more of the test stores nationally in the upcoming months.
Lake Norman & North Charlotte are also hot areas in the battle. Publix plans to open two stores in the area. The first, which will be opening soon, will be located in Cornelius’ Magnolia Plaza, which is undergoing serious renovations. Major development of Cornelius’ Exit 28 has been in the works: a Bank of the Ozarks branch opened there earlier this year & a double cross intersection will be installed on the I-77 bridge, with twin cable-stayed towers to support it. The second Publix location will be in an old BI-LO store next to Harris Teeter at Huntersville’s Exit 23. It is set to open in late 2014.
Meanwhile, Memphis-area residents are excited over reports of possible site selectors scouring Western Tennessee for a new Publix location. Publix already has stores in Nashville, Chattanooga, & Knoxville, but none within 150 miles of Memphis. The nearest location to Memphis residents is in Florence, Alabama, nearly 155 miles away.
Last, but not least, it seems that Publix stores aren’t reaching Mississippi, but rumors sure are. In recent months, rumors have spread that Publix is looking for locations in Gulfport, Biloxi, Columbus, & D’Iberville. Although Publix hasn’t confirmed any new Mississippi locations, residents are hopeful. One fan even went as far as setting up a Facebook page urging Publix to come to the Magnolia State.
A July poll showed Publix as the number one grocer in the South. Harris Teeter, Walmart, Target, & Trader Joe’s were also in the running, while Food Lion ranked poorly. Another poll conducted on the Gulf Coast put Louisiana based supermarket Rouses ahead of Publix in terms of service & quality. Rouses has stores in three states; Publix has stores in six states.
Find out more about expansion: Charlotte | Raleigh | Myrtle Beach
Kroger joined the fight when they officially bought NC-based chain Harris Teeter in January of this year. Kroger agreed to retain the Harris Teeter name, logo, & rewards program in existing stores, but they did make some changes to the Harris Teeter brand. New, bolder shirts; commercials pronouncing the loyalty of Harris Teeter to North Carolina since 1936, and; offering new, lower prices are just a few things Kroger is changing. A big shopping experience change occurred this summer as well. Exposed meat & lunch meat freezer cases were covered with freezer doors to keep the products even more fresh and cold.
Kroger hasn’t announced any plans to open new Kroger stores in metro Charlotte, but they have been plotting new HT stores. Plans call for multiple new Harris Teeter stores in the Charlotte area. One new location will anchor a new development project in Charlotte’s Sedgefield neighborhood. Harris Teeter aims to open a new 53,000 sq. ft. modern-type store by late 2016. And HT is also battling with Publix in the Lake Norman area. Harris Teeter plans call for a brand new store located in the heart of downtown Antiquity, a small housing village in Cornelius. That store will likely open in early 2015.
In June of 2014, Belgium-based Delhaize, the owner of Food Lion, sold three of its American grocery chains (Harveys, Sweetbay, & Reid’s) to Jacksonville-based BI-LO, a company that merged with Winn-Dixie in 2011, for $246 million. In a completely different sale, Delhaize sold its Plant City, Florida distribution center to C&S Wholesale Grocers, a New Hampshire-based company. C&S owns Piggly Wiggly & Best Yet Markets & sells food to BI-LO, Pathmark, Safeway, Stop & Shop, Shaw’s, Target, & several other grocery chains.
In a move that severely diminished their presence in Charlotte, BI-LO sold seven Charlotte area locations to Publix in 2013. In addition, a Southern States Cooperative store, a farm supply chain based in Richmond, VA, will open on August 29 in a former BI-LO on Roosevelt Blvd in Monroe. The store will be the first Southern States location to debut the “Rural America” concept, which aims to serve residents of rural communities. When the new store opens, Southern States plans to close its old location on Crow St in Monroe. Southern States will open the second “Rural America” concept store in Rock Hill, SC in 2015.
Food Lion, a fairly large Southern/Mid-Atlantic chain, is upping their game with more commercials, an increased involvement in the community, a larger selection of gluten-free items, daily dinner deals, new blue bags, & renovations of some North Carolina stores. In regard to involvement in the community, Food Lion has pledged to donate to Feeding America & other hunger relief organizations through their Food Lion Feeds program. For every reusable bag that you purchase, Food Lion will donate food to 5 hungry families.
Food Lion is not backing down.
Lowes Foods is doing surprisingly well for a small, local grocery chain. In 2012, Lowes Foods agreed to transfer 10 of their Charlotte area stores to Harris Teeter, and HT agreed to transfer 6 of their rural Piedmont stores to Lowes Foods. Most stores have already been converted. According to a source inside Lowes Foods, Publix has plans to purchase & remodel the Mooresville, NC location & open it sometime in 2016.
On August 12, 2014, Lowes Foods announced that two metro Charlotte locations would close. The announcement came shortly after the company revealed that their Cary & West Jefferson stores would also close. The stores, located in Shelby & Gastonia, are expected to cease operations by September 19.
In late June, Lowes Foods officially announced their brand overhaul. In addition to a new website, a new logo (see above), & an updated Fresh Rewards program, LF announced two major concepts that will drastically change the company’s position in the Grocery Store War. The first of these concepts is the “Community Table.” A Lowes Foods newsletter says it best: “The community table (is) [sic] the centerpiece of our brand and is a gathering place where local farmers, chefs, entrepreneurs, wine producers, you name it, come by to demonstrate, present, and tell their stories. It’s where new recipes, new ideas, and great new foods are shared with our guests on a daily basis.” The second concept, called “Pick & Prep”, is an idea fairly new to grocery chains. “The Pick & Prep station is a whole new concept where you can get any of your produce items sliced and diced to your liking, while you shop! The insights you provide when you participate in our community will determine the direction we take our brand to make the best possible grocery shopping experience for you.“
(Images Credit: Lowes Foods)
Lowes Foods has their eyes set on Wilmington & the Carolina coast. They’ve opened a few new stores on the coast already & are looking to open some more by the end of next year. With the recent brand overhaul, they should be just fine serving the coastal population.
Whole Foods is not considered a major competitor in the grocery store war, as the chain focuses on specialty healthy & organic foods, which is not the main focus of the other grocery giants battling for Charlotte. However, Whole Foods plans to open a new store in Huntersville, NC sometime in the fall. It will be located in an old Food Lion store that is currently undergoing renovations. Whole Foods also plans to open a new store in South Charlotte in late 2016.
When a Whole Foods opens in a new market, the chain likes to get to know the community. They audition local business owners to see if their products can be sold at Whole Foods. This is exactly what they did in late May for their new Huntersville store, and will likely do for their new South Charlotte store.
In addition to the perks of a regular grocery store, Whole Foods also allows customers to try any product in the store. Just ask an employee and they’ll open the product for you, free of charge. In addition to humorous restroom signage, typical Whole Foods locations have a kitchen, which serves pizza, pretzels, & other dinner meals, a trail mix bar, cheese & wine cafes, candy & cookie bars, & a ample seating area for customers who wish to dine at the store. Whole Foods also has quarterly Cheese Nights where customers can taste a variety of cheeses at the cheese cafe.
Minor competitors include: Fresh Market, Aldi, Ingles, Walmart, Earth Fare, & Trader Joe’s.
Fresh Market plans on opening a new store in the University area this fall, & recently secured space in the Promenade on Providence for a new store that is slated to open in early 2015.
Aldi, a Germany based global grocer, operates in the United States under both the Trader Joe’s brand & the Aldi brand. You can learn more about the Aldi brand here.
Earth Fare is a serious competitor of Whole Foods & Trader Joe’s. The health food chain is headquartered in nearby Asheville, NC & has about 33 stores spanning nine states in the Southeast & Midwest. The store has a special “Boot List”, a comprehensive list of ingredients & flavors that are banned from Earth Fare shelves. The company has two stores in Charlotte & one in Huntersville.
Ingles has just over 11 stores within a 50-mile radius of Charlotte, but none actually in the city itself. And although Ingles is opening a new store in Lincolnton very soon, they haven’t announced any plans to expand. The Black Mountain, NC based company aims to serve smaller communities, rather than large cities, so it’s highly unlikely that Ingles will open a new store in Charlotte anytime soon.
Walmart is opening new Neighborhood Market concept stores in both Concord & East Charlotte later this summer. They also plan on opening new stores in Rock Hill, Pineville, Kings Mountain, & Gastonia by the end of the year. The small concept stores focus is on grocery & food products, much like competing grocery stores. Walmart already has a Neighborhood Market store on Independence Blvd in South Charlotte, which opened earlier this year. The new stores will be about 40,000 sq. ft., and each has hired about 95 employees.
Part 2: Overview
It may eventually come down to this: Publix vs. Kroger. However, you may be able to swap that “vs.” for an “and.”
Atlanta is the perfect example of a market where these two grocery giants are working together in perfect harmony. Scattered across the city & surrounding areas are Publix & Kroger stores, some within a few blocks of each other. What’s ironic is that both chains aren’t even headquartered in or near Atlanta. Kroger is based in Cincinnati, while Publix is headquartered in Lakeland, FL. And even though Kroger hasn’t made any moves to expand into the Charlotte area, they do own Harris Teeter, a major competitor in the Grocery Store War. There’s no telling if Kroger plans on changing the HT brand or transforming Harris Teeter stores in Kroger locations. Anything can happen. But it may just end up a ceasefire situation & both (or all) grocery stores involved will serve the community together in harmony.
(Sources: Publix, Wikipedia, Biz Journal, Huff Post, Charlotte Observer, Star News, CED)