Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bi-Lo is out of bankruptcy. Now what?

Supermarket chain Bi-Lo announced Wednesday that it had officially exited bankruptcy, about 13 months after seeking protection. While in Chapter 11, the chain shed debts and unprofitable leases, and it also renegotiated an important supplier contract. But now that the court process is complete, the company's future depends on its ability to win over shoppers, some of whom have drifted away.

The region's no. 4 grocery chain by sales occupies a precarious place in the market, because it strives to compete on quality and price, pitching itself as the best of both worlds, a middle ground between supercenters such as Walmart and more elaborate stores like Harris Teeter. It tries to sum that up in its current advertising slogan, "Savings without sacrifice."

In the years leading up to the bankruptcy filing, the company's strategy appeared to be flagging, and sales dropped. In the past year or so, though, Bi-Lo has refocused its efforts, closing laggard locations, including several locally, and broadening the rollout of promotions such as Fuelperks, which provides a gas discount for shoppers who spend over a certain amount. Losses have narrowed, and sales at surviving stores have generally improved, if not necessarily back to the levels seen five years ago. But Bi-Lo is by no means out of the woods. Never a market leader in Charlotte, the chain has also been facing a stiff challenge from Publix in its hometown of Greenville, S.C.

So I'm wondering: If you don't now shop at Bi-Lo, what would it take to get you to go there? Are its locations a problem? Price? Atmosphere? If you are a Bi-Lo shopper, why, and what else - if anything - would you like to see at stores? I'm hoping to talk with the company to get a sense of what awaits post-bankruptcy and would be interested in hearing your thoughts, too.

18 comments:

Bulkpro said...

Bi-Lo is a pretty good combination of price and variety, and sends out promotional cards to regular customers (e.g $8 of $50+ purchases)But I wonder how long they can do this without really killing margins. Prices are a little lower than HT on most items with some particularly good prices on store brands. Produce is generally good, but watch the special items for freshness (i.e. eat the $1.50/container strawberries within 48 hours)

Oh, and they should keep a barista at the coffee counter during peak morning hours. Sometimes you have to go find them!

Anonymous said...

I actually thought Bi-Lo was like a low end grocery store with noname brand products. The Bi-Lo stores in another city I lived weren't nice so I guess that's something I remembered and just avoided the store all together when I came to Charlotte.

However, there is a Bi-Lo located next to a Wal-Mart where I shop and one day the lines were ridiculous so I decided to run into Bi-Lo. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. They have great produce, the best fresh cut fruit selections and tasty hot foods. Their prices are really good; definitely better than Harris Teeter and almost better than Food Lion.

I tend to purchase Latin food products sometimes and Bi-Lo is lacking in that area. Harris Teeter has alot of Jewish and Asian foods and Food Lion has a variety of Latin foods. Bi-Lo might want to diversify some as well.

Anonymous said...

I used to shop at the old Dilworth Bi-lo before it closed but I never really liked the store. It was just cheaper than Harris Teeter on basic items. The customer service was terrible, the selection was horrible. I'm glad that they closed and I'm glad there is Bloom now. I haven't to any other regular store since. So I'm glad Bi-Lo closed.

Anonymous said...

Bi-lo has always had a good butcher shop, with very good weekly specials and savings on meat. The butchers in our local store are very helpful. I would hate to see Bi-Lo disappear from the scene. Go Bi-Lo!

Selene said...

I usually shop at Harris Teeter or Lowes Grocery stores because they're more convenient for me but one day I stopped in a Bi-Lo just to check it out. I don't really "get" the store...I mean they have the same products and prices as the other grocery stores yet it doesn't look as nice and clean as the others on the inside...at least the one I visited. They also don't have commercials on tv or advertise a savings/rewards card to my knowledge so I'm quite surprised they're still able to compete in today's market. I have nothing against them but, to me, Bi-Lo and Food Lion just don't update their stores like they need to, they feel antiquated when I'm in them. In contrast, every Harris Teeter and Lowes Grocery store I walk into has a "new" kind of feel, multiple convenient locations, options for self-checkout in case you don't want to wait in line, visible advertising and rewards programs, and overall they just feel very clean and bright and have good customer service.

Anonymous said...

Downtown Greenville also has an enormous Ingles that beats anything that Bi-Lo has.

Outside of the Super Bi-Lo in Matthews, their stores in the Charlotte area are dated and not very clean looking.

Anonymous said...

I've never had a problem with Bi-Lo, but it is decidedly average. When I lived near a Bi-Lo, I shopped there regularly. However, in my current residence, I have 5 Harris-Teeters, 2 Food Lions, a Bloom, Home Economist, Trader Joe's and Earth Fare all closer. While I'd certainly pass 100 Food Lions to shop anywhere else, why would I skip past H-T and the others to go to Bi-Lo. There's the rub, Bi-Lo is okay, but it's just okay. H-T has better quality/selection and Food Lion & Wal-Mart have better prices, but Bi-Lo is just kinda muddled. Nowadays being in the middle is a death knell.

Douglas said...

I shop at Bilo for 2 reasons.

1) They pay me too (I get coupons for $8 off $50 of shopping) and

2)it is close to my house.

I am willing to bet that 90% of people shop where they shop for 51% of there food for reason 2.

I have nothing for or against them...but I think they need to focus MY LOCAL store more on the community (mine is in South Charlotte and might benefit from a more upsacle approach...but on the other hand they could go the otherway and me the only one in 5 miles that is NOT upscale and go cheap...which they are not...so it seems they are in no-mans land).

Jerry said...

The biggest problem I have with BiLo is the staff. Clerks and others very rude. Not at all helpful. We have 2 BiLo's near by. We call one "the good BiLo" and the other the "bad BiLo". This all stems mostly from the staff. The next big issue for me is cleanliness. Some are better than others.

Anonymous said...

Hire clean cut, polite, hard working, people that care about their jobs, as opposed to the usual scum that typically populates these stores.

Anonymous said...

Bi-Lo got better when Giant and Stop n Shop owned them. What they need to do is clean the stores-add enthnic items. Hispanic foods in that area of town is great. Kosher in parts of Charlotte.

Anonymous said...

Pat thinks the Bi-Lo on North highway 321 in York is great. Great selection,great staff always asking if they can help you and the displays are awesome. The selections are far greater than HT.
Go Bi-LO......

Anonymous said...

I must agree that Bi-Lo's hiring policies need to be improved. Their people are not friendly, for the most part, and they don't seem happy to have a job. Clean them up and change their attitude.

Anonymous said...

The Super Bi-Lo in Matthews has friendly staff, and the store is clean.

Anonymous said...

Prior to the Walmart in Indian Trail opening - Bi-Lo was my favorite place to shop. It was a 'newer' store and was really nice. My problem was that I had to drive past a Food Lion and a Super Walmart to get to it and it just didn't make much sense to go there. I will say I was really sad to see it close recently.

Anonymous said...

What the heck happened to Winn Dixie!

Jaden Allred said...

I think BI-LO did an impressive job in getting back on track after their bankruptcy. From what I gather, the company bought Winn Dixie and is expanding their enterprise. They definitely made use of their time to regroup and formulate a strategy that works for them.

sam john said...

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