Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Walmart Neighborhood Market opening Wednesday

Charlotte's first Walmart Neighborhood Market, a smaller store from the world's largest retailer, is holding its grand opening Wednesday on Independence Boulevard.

The store is set to open at 7:30 a.m., with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. There will also be product samplings and giveaways at the store throughout the day.

Store manager David Thomas inside the new
Walmart Neighborhood Market
The store is 51,000 square feet, on the large end for a grocery store but only about a quarter the size of a Walmart SuperCenter. Grocery and other consumable goods account for more than half of Walmart's revenue, so the Neighborhood Markets take the quickest-turning parts of the store and move them into one location that's more manageable for customers to shop.

Although Neighborhood Markets account for just a small fraction of the more than 3,000 Walmart stores nationwide, there are now 230 of them. For perspective, that's more than the total number of Harris Teeter stores.

The store on Independence Blvd. is the second Walmart Neighborhood Market in the state. The first was opened last year in Cary, and Walmart plans to open more in the future across North Carolina. Walmart has hired about 90 people to work at the new Charlotte store. The store will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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Friday, February 8, 2013

Books-A-Million closing in Cotswold Village

Books-A-Million is closing its Cotswold location, and the store is starting a going-out-of-business sale Friday.

An astute reader forwarded us the store's email blast. The 16,000-square-foot store is liquidating its inventory and will likely close in mid-March.

Books-A-Million is the third bookstore in the area to close in the last few years. Joseph Beth Booksellers closed in 2010, followed by Borders in 2011. The closure of Books-A-Million will leave Barnes & Noble as the last of the four chain bookstores in the area.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ann Taylor concept store coming to SouthPark

A new Ann Taylor boutique will open in SouthPark mall on April 19, the company said.

The new store will have a number of  features to distinguish it from Ann Taylor's existing stores. SouthPark currently has a traditional Ann Taylor store, and the company said this will be its first concept store in Charlotte.

"Inspired by a stylish modern contemporary home, the new Ann Taylor boutiques provide an intimate shopping chic, warm and inviting," the company said in its press release.

"The store's features include:

  White washed maple hardwood floors, luxurious crystal chandeliers, modern tufted furniture and sleek feminine fixtures inspired by the ultimate closet.

· Wardrobing niches that allow for strong fashion stories as well as a broad assortment of product.

· Styling rooms that feature unique floral wall coverings, luxe ottomans, plush carpeting, and a new proprietary lighting system with flattering backlit mirrors.

· Curated fashion presentations and expert styling services add to the store experience making shopping easy and fun

· Dedicated stylists on staff and available for both walk-ins and by appointment to assist clients in putting together perfect individualized looks for any occasion."

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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