Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Park Road Bloom reopens as Food Lion

Four months after Delhaize announced it was changing its N.C. and S.C. Blooms into Food Lions, the change is coming to Charlotte.

The Bloom on Park Road is reopening today, Wednesday, as a Food Lion. The other local Blooms will follow suit in the coming weeks. Grand openings and shopping sprees are planned (details to follow).

The Bloom label is still alive and well. Growing in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, Bloom is adding more options, such as a gluten-free center.

What's your opinion? If you loved Bloom, will you go back to Food Lion? What do you think of the company's strategy (and I promise after this, I'll try to stop making every post about a Delhaize company)?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Bottom Dollar expands into Pennsylvania, Ohio

The Salisbury-based Bottom Dollar grocery chain, owned by Food Lion's parent company, said Friday that it will open 14 stores near Pittsburgh, PA, and Youngstown, OH, early next year.

Bottom Dollar sells food in a no-frills, bag-it-yourself format. Much like other low-cost chain's, such as Aldi's, Bottom Dollar has a limited selection of about 7,000 items, with a focus on private label products. The chain was started in High Point in 2005, and has since grown to 47 stores.

Last year, Bottom Dollar said it planned to significantly increase its number of stores as part of an effort to capture increasingly price-conscious shoppers. The chain opened 16 stores in the Philadelphia market.

Locally, there are Bottom Dollar stores in Mooresville and Hickory.

Belgium-based Delhaize operates seven U.S. supermarket chains: Food Lion, its biggest, with over 1,300 stores, and the smaller Bloom, Harveys, Reid's, Hannafords, Sweetbay and Bottom Dollar.

Revenue at Delhaize's U.S. stores declined about 1 percent in 2010, to $18.8 billion, and sales at stores open for at least a year fell 2 percent. Delhaize doesn't break out results for its different U.S. chains.

Delhaize is also in the midst of converting its N.C. and S.C. Bloom stores into Food Lions, while it expands Bloom stores around suburban Washington, D.C. Charlotte stores are expected to change over in the coming weeks.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Win a bottle of Justin Bieber's "Someday" fragrance!

And win a bunch of other perfume and beauty products that I'm pretty sure have a retail value of well over $100 (full list and pictures below). All you have to do is tell me Charlotte's best-kept retail secret.

Yes, this is a contest. I want to know what you think is the best-kept retail secret in Charlotte. It can be a store hardly anyone has heard of, an out-of-the-way roadside stand that sells something cool or a tip or trick that saves you cash.

Here are the rules: You can leave your secret as a comment or email it to me, but if you leave it as a comment, make sure that you include an email address where I can reach you. I may use this "secret" in an article or might file it away for later use. Please don't include anything illegal, such as "My secret tip is to shoplift more effectively." And finally, this contest is totally arbitrary, with me picking the winner.

Here's what you stand to win:

Background: I got this stuff for free from Belk during a media event. Despite my intense desire to smell like Justin Bieber mixed with Taylor Swift and Jessica McClintock, the ethical thing to do as a journalist is give it away. I'm not going to track down and add up the total retail value, but these items all appear to be full retail size, so I'm guessing well, well north of $100.

So there you have it: Send me your secrets and I'll mail you Justin Bieber in a bottle.

 The items, on my desk in front of my duck decoy

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Food Lion finishes converting Greenville, S.C., Blooms

Six former Bloom stores in the Greenville, S.C. market are set to reopen Wednesday as Food Lions, and the final conversion of Blooms to Food Lions in Charlotte will soon follow.

Delhaize, the parent corporation for both grocery chains, first announced it was making the change-over in March. Bloom had been under-performing in the Carolinas, the company said, and while Blooms here would be changed to Food Lions, Blooms in suburban Washington, D.C., and southeast Virginia would remain the same.

The plans for Greenville could presage what's soon to follow in Charlotte as Food Lion tries to lure Bloom shoppers. Blooms-turned-Food Lions in the Greenville area will debut with 8 a.m. ribbon cuttings Wednesday. They'll have specials, grocery gift card giveaways worth up to $250, and in-store shopping sprees.

The stores will also feature some product assortments meant to appeal to Bloom fans.

"As part of the transition to Food Lion, we've listened to former Bloom guests to maintain as many of the key products as possible," said James Egan, senior VP of Food Lion, in a statement. "Food Lion stores will feature popular natural and organic products, along with fresh seafood, produce and other specialty items. In addition, Bloom guests will enjoy the same friendly and dependable associates, as most of the Bloom associates have joined our Food Lion family so they may continue to serve their loyal customers."

There will be 49 Blooms, a sort of upscale complement to Food Lion, after the transition of Greenville and Charlotte is complete. That's a small number compared to the 1,300 or so Food Lions. Both companies are run out of Salisbury.

A company spokeswoman couldn't yet say exactly when the Charlotte Blooms will reopen as Food Lions.

The Bloom banner isn't stagnating in Virginia and Maryland, where the stores are mostly clustered around Washington, D.C. In fact, it seems to be growing more distinct from Food Lion. In May, the chain announced it was adding more organic foods and a gluten-free center to those stores.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

New running shop set for SouthPark

Charlotte-based running shop Run For Your Life is set to open its fourth retail store at SouthPark mall next month.

“We are very committed to our customers, the Charlotte business community and people leading healthy lifestyles, so we are thrilled to provide an additional location to better serve the Charlotte community with their running and walking needs," said owner Tim Rhodes.

The store's grand opening is scheduled for Friday, August 5. There are currently Run For Your Life stores in Dilworth, the University area and Piper Glen.

Founded in 1989, the store sells running and walking shoes as well as clothing and other gear for runners, and is the official timekeeper for the city's Thunder Road Marathon in November.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Southern Marketplace opens in Indian Trail

A new multi-merchant marketplace for home goods is opening in Indian Trail.

Southern Marketplace will feature "shabby chic furniture, home accessories - shabby and new, (and) handcrafted jewelry shops," said owner Phyllis Smith in an email.

The shop, at 5411 Highway 74 West, has a grand opening today (Saturday, July 16). Planned events include sales in the parking lot, on the sidewalk and in a tent, as well as cornhole contests and door prizes every 30 minutes.

The shop features individual vendors who rent space in the store to sell their goods.

Said Smith: "All of us at Southern Marketplace believe there should still be some shops as individual as the people who shop in them, and not just another big box store."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Kai's Kookies & More opens on South Boulevard

Cookie junkies have another spot to get a fix on South Boulevard, as a family-owned cookie shop is planning for its grand opening on Saturday.

Kai's Kookies & More is the brainchild of Tracy and Patrick Watkins. The business has been around since 2002, subleasing space from a bakery in Huntersville.

Tracy started the business in 2002, after her daughter Kai was born with a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. She left her job as an electrical engineer to spend more time with the baby.

"It started out so I'd have something where I could take care of my daughter without working a 9 to 5 job," she said. She started a website, got some retail orders and went from there. Tracy started selling her hand-iced cookies to businesses such as Dean & Deluca, Healthy Home Market and parties at the Harris YMCA.

And maybe that's how things would have stayed, if her husband Patrick hadn't been laid off from his job as a civil engineer in February. The baking couple (Patrick makes eight varieties of cheesecake he'd sold to local restaurants) decided now was the chance to go big.

"Instead of subleasing from the bakery in Harrisburg we'd been working out of, we said let's just do our own space," Tracy said. They scouted out retail locations, and settled on 1,200-square-feet in a shopping center at 3905 South Boulevard, near Scaleybark Road. With the help of family members and their savings, they started to get the business in shape.

"The upfit was a lot of late nights, working 24-hours, with the help of a friend," Tracy said. "It was a lot of sweat equity. We are working on a budget."

The store's grand opening will be Saturday, July 16. A decorating contest, free coffee, cookies, massages and live jazz are planned. "I'm excited, and a little scared," Tracy said.

Patrick is working on new creations, such as tiramisu and carrot cake, to expand their repertoire. Tracy hopes that kid-centered birthday parties, with cookie and cupcake-making parties, will help draw customers. And she's looking forward to eating more of her favorite dessert - her husband's mango cheesecake.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Uptown barber moves as business picks up

If you're looking for a nugget of good economic news among the dismal drumbeat of double dips, debt ceilings and diminished job numbers, here you go: Russ Gibson says people are getting their hair cut again.

Not that they stopped. But during downturn, Gibson, owner of City Barbers at Uptown, says they cut back. "Guys just stretched their haircuts out," he said. "Instead of every two weeks, they were doing every four weeks or more."

The shop, which was in the Ivey 's building uptown, got much of its revenue from businessmen dropping in for an $18 trim. Things have noticeably rebounded, Gibson said. "We're back in full swing."

With many of his customers back to getting their locks trimmed twice a month, Gibson said he's moving the business to Founder's Hall, at the Bank of America building. The new shop will still have four barbers, and Gibson said he's outfitted it with 100-year-old barber's chairs for a more classic look.

The price of a haircut will go up $3, to $21. The new barber shop will be open Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thirsty? Grab a Harris Teeter brand beer

Harris Teeter says customers will soon be able to buy three varieties of private-label beer at its stores. The move follows the trend of retailers trying to boost profits by pushing their own brands as lower-priced alternatives to national labels.

Called Barrel Trolley, Harris Teeter says the new beers are intended to give customers another option when shopping for craft beer. Barrel Trolley will be available this month at Harris Teeter locations that sell alcohol.

Here's what Harris Teeter has to say about the beers' flavors: "The Belgian White Ale promises bright flavors of orange balanced by subtly spicy coriander. The Pale Ale, with three types of hops, offers a complex citrus hope aroma with deep flavor and a long crisp finish.  Finally, the Amber Ale, coming this fall to stores, is a medium bodied craft beer with a complex malt flavor and a subtle citrus aroma."

A six-pack will retail for $7.99 - more than Budweiser, Miller and Coors, but less than some craft beers at Harris Teeter, which can set you back as much as $10.99.

Private labels have expanded more quickly as consumers sought to save money in the downturn. They're generally more profitable for retailers to sell. Family Dollar has been revamping it's Family Gourmet line, which it hopes will help it keep growing the proportion of private label goods it sells and offset profit-killers such as rising gas prices.

Alcohol hasn't been immune from the privatization trend. Trader Joe's has long sold its Charles Shaw (Two-buck Chuck) wines and has a wide private label beer selection too. Other retailers have been getting into the mix too - 7-Eleven and Walgreens have both started selling private label beers, called Game Day and Big Flats 1901. Harris Teeter already sells Oak Creek, its private label wine.

Have you seen Barrel Trolley in stores? Better yet, if you've tasted it, what are your thoughts - can it compete with craft brewery big boys like Sierra Nevada, Rogue and Sweetwater?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

High-end audio/video stores combine

Audio Advice said Monday that it's buying ZoboTV, in a merger of two of the area's top-of-the-line audio/video stores.

Both of the retailers focus on selling and installing upscale home electronics, such as huge TVs, custom sound systems and systems that let you control your house's lights and security from an iPad.

Audio Advice, which is headquartered in Raleigh, didn't disclose the terms of the sale. The 33-year-old company has a showroom in Raleigh and opened a Pineville location last year in the old Tweeter building near Carolina Place mall. ZoboTV has a store near SouthPark mall, on Sharon Road.

The combined company will have about 65 audio/video experts to help customers sort through the sinewy tangles of wires that come with the territory, executives said. Jay Faison, founder and president of ZoboTV, said the sale will let him focus on SnapAV, an audio/video supply company he also founded.

Both stores will remain open with their present staff, said Audio Advice executives. "With the most innovative home electronics offering and the best system consultants and installation technicians in the Carolinas, we believe this combination is going to benefit customers from Charlotte to Raleigh,” Audio Advice president Scott Newnam said in a statement.

Customers will have a greater selection of items at both stores in Charlotte, executives said.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Blacklion opening in Dilworth

Another multi-merchant interior marketplace is headed to East Boulevard, as the owners of Charlotte stalwart Blacklion said they plan to open their third shop this September in Dilworth.

Blacklion, which has stores on Park Road near Highway 51 and in Huntersville, said the new shop will open sometime in September. The retailer signed the lease in May for the former Talley's Green Grocery space at the corner of Scott and East Boulevard.

Co-owner Bob Emory said the new store will give customers who travel to south Charlotte to visit Blacklion a more convenient option, near Myers Park, Eastover and other upscale neighborhoods.

"We have experienced a substantial increase in sales at both our existing locations," said Emory in an email. "Many of the consumers from the areas the new store will service visit our south Charlotte store once or twice a year."

Blacklion is the second interior marketplace to announce it's opening on East Boulevard in the last two weeks. The other new store, Alexander Scott, will open blocks away in August or early September at the former McColl Fine Art building, at the corner of East and South Boulevards.

Talley's Green Grocery closed in 2008. Emory said the landlord and Blacklion are spending a combined $400,000 to expand and upgrade the space.

Both Alexander Scott and Blacklion will feature furniture and other interior design pieces from a wide selection of merchants, who will lease and stock stalls in the stores. Blacklion plans to have about 100 merchants in the 14,200-square-foot Dilworth location.

The stores will add to a stretch of East Boulevard known for trendy boutiques, unique gift shops (think Cottage Chic and Paper Skyscraper).

Blacklion has come through the downturn stronger and ready to expand, according to the owners. Said Emory: "Even though we have felt the recession like most other retailers, we have weathered the storm."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Retail sales up in June

With all the glum news we've been bombarded with lately - weak job growth, rising food and fuel prices, the failure of a movie featuring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts - June retail sales are a lonely bright spot.

Ken Perkins, a consultant with Retail Metrics, reported Thursday that sales rose more than expected at nearly all of the stores his firm tracks. Sales at stores open a year or more - a key measure of retail health - rose 7.2 percent compared to June last year.

"Wide spread and deep promotions coupled with hot weather and falling gas prices led to much better than expected June same store sales," Perkins wrote.

The discount segment still led sales, with a 10.1 percent jump. Costco's sales jumped 14 percent (8 percent excluding gas), while BJ's saw a 7.3 percent increase.  Target turned in a 4.5 percent gain.

High-end retailers also saw a large increase: Saks posted an 11.9 percent gain and  Nieman-Marcus' sales climbed 12.5 percent.

Department stores saw a 5.9 percent gain, and teen apparel retailer sales increased 7.2 percent. Locally, Charlotte-based apparel retailer Cato reported that sales inched up about 1 percent compared to the same period last year.

Perkins said the coming summer will be a test for retailers.

"Looking ahead to July and beyond, retailers have their work cut out for them.  Clearance inventories of summer related merchandise have largely been sold through," he wrote. "Retailers will be looking to sell fresh merchandise...and pull back a bit from the deep discounts we witnessed in June. The key question looms as to what extent will the vast majority of consumers in the middle-to-low income space be willing to pay full price in July."