Monday, February 4, 2013

Wal-Mart readies Charlotte's first Neighborhood Market

Workers are building shelves, stocking goods and preparing Charlotte's first Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market to open, as the mega-retailer continues to push for more of the region's grocery market.

The store's interior
The 51,000-square-foot store is set to open in about 2 1/2 weeks on Independence Boulevard, at Village Lake Drive. The store is in the Independence Square shopping center, just a few storefronts down from the international Super G Mart, in a former Best Buy location.

The store is a fraction of the size of a SuperCenter, and carries a full line of grocery items, along with a bakery, deli, pharmacy and other supermarket services.

Signage coming soon
"You'll get the same SuperCenter pricing, in a smaller format," said store manager David Thomas. The idea behind the Neighborhood Markets, which Wal-Mart first began opening in 1999, is to strip away most of the SuperCenter's goods and offer a smaller store with the core products customers buy most often. What you end up with is, more or less, a traditional supermarket with the Wal-Mart machinery behind it.

Wal-Mart has more than 200 Neighborhood Market stores. That's a small fraction of its more than 3,000 SuperCenters, but Wal-Mart has been opening Neighborhood Markets at an accelerating rate. Wal-mart opened 27 in fiscal 2012, up from two the year before and five in 2010.
Talk about low prices!

The company recently opened its first Neighborhood Market in North Carolina in Cary, and is also building a store in Greer, S.C.

A look at Wal-Mart's annual report from 2012 shows how important grocery items are to the business. Grocery items made up 55 percent of Wal-Mart's total sales for the year, up from 53 percent in 2011. No other category of items came close. The other categories are entertainment (12 percent of sales), hardlines (10 percent), health and wellness (11 percent), apparel (7 percent), and home (5 percent).

At the Independence Boulevard location, Wal-Mart has hired about 90 people. The company is spending more than $3 million renovating the store, according to county building permits.

Wal-Mart has been going after the region's former grocery market leader, Harris Teeter, with an agressive advertising campaign that includes side-by-side price comparisons for a basket of goods. The company overtook Harris Teeter in 2011 as the No. 1 grocer in the region. Food Lion comes in at No. 3.

The Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market is the newest entrant to Charlotte's grocery market, which has seen a slew of new stores over the past several years. Publix is building stores, Whole Foods is finally open, Harris Teeter debuted its 201central stores and is rebuilding other stores throughout Charlotte. Family Dollar has added hundreds of food items, and Target has overhauled its stores to greatly expand their grocery selections. Food Lion is overhauling its stores and trying to win customers back.

They're all competing for a share of your food dollars, and with razor-thin profit margins and more competitors than just three years ago, don't expect the competition to slow anytime soon.

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Anonymous said...

I suppose Walmart knows what it is doing, but it seems to me that the ROI on Supercenters would be greater than on these smaller grocery stores. General merchandise has a much higher markup than grocery items.

Anonymous said...

Great news! Great news that Publix is entering the Charlotte amrket. High Priced Harris Teeter prices continue to climb and their customer service stinks!

Anonymous said...

I've always thought Wal-Mart would be wise to open small stores with a pharmacy and items you find in places like CVS, Rite-Aid, and Wal-Greens. Put them on the outskirts of towns and in smaller towns.