• Competition in grocery market could be good thing for shoppers

    By: Scott Wickersham


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A grocery war is on the way in Charlotte.

    Florida-based Publix is creeping up the East Coast. It's opening stores in Lancaster and York counties and is now planning to build in south Charlotte.

    Competition is a good thing for shoppers, but not such a good thing for companies like Harris Teeter that want to stay on top in Charlotte.

    The new Publix stores in Indian Land and Fort Mill both open Oct. 24. Its first Charlotte store, at the corner of 521 and Providence Road West at the Ballantyne town center, is set to open sometime in 2014.

    “Everyone at the office is talking about it, and they are very excited,” one shopper said. “Harris Teeter owns Johnston Road, so I think we could use one.”

    Harris Teeter appears to be reacting to Publix in Charlotte, renovating a store nearby and recently swapping a location with Lowes Foods.

    That makes three Harris Teeter stores on Johnston Road within a mile of the planned Publix.

    It's not a position Publix is used to, dominating the market in Florida and other parts of the South with more than 1,000 stores compared to Harris Teeter's 200.

    A Publix spokeswoman said the battle will mean more choices for shoppers.

    “Any time a new store comes, it benefits the customer,” she said. “Competition makes grocers better.”

    Shopper Ross Rebhnan thinks it could lead to better deals for him.

    “If there is more competition, you will get lower prices,” he said.

    But developers say Publix’s biggest obstacle to expansion in the area is a lack of quality land in south Charlotte.

    Publix said it will find creative ways to overcome that.

    “We build up. We have above-ground parking, below-ground parking. We have urban stores.”

    On Thursday, Harris Teeter released a statement that read:

    "Harris Teeter was founded in Charlotte, N.C., and this city remains our home today. We have over 50 stores in Charlotte and have over 7,000 associates who live and work here. We continue to invest in the community by remodeling our stores, adding new stores and improving our offerings.
    New competition is a constant in our business. We know Publix well; we have successfully competed with the retailer for 18 years in multiple markets including Charleston, Nashville and Hilton Head. With the growth of Charlotte, it is no surprise that Publix would choose to compete here.
    Harris Teeter will continue to support the community by sponsoring youth sports teams, supporting schools through Together in Education and contributing to local food bank partners as well as United Way.
    We will also remain focused on delivering excellent customer service and high-quality products at competitive prices to all Harris Teeter customers, and we encourage our shoppers to use our in-store pharmacies, Express Lane Online Shopping and enjoy the freshly prepared meals-to-go in our Fresh Foods Market.  Harris Teeter also encourages all of our shoppers to take advantage of our everyday promotions by signing up for a VIC card; we take it a step further by offering shoppers promotions which are specifically targeted for them through our e-VIC program.
    Harris Teeter’s commitment to delivering superior service and quality offerings was recently recognized by Progressive Grocer with their 2012 Retailer of the Year Award."

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