Publix Super Markets gave a sneak preview inside its first Charlotte-area stores Tuesday, showcasing high-end touches such as free wireless Internet, organic goods, and cafe seating to sip coffee.
The stores, in Fort Mill and Indian Land, open Wednesday morning, bringing a major new competitor into the regions grocery market. Florida-based Publixs two stores are both new buildings of about 49,000 square feet, and are the first step in a planned expansion throughout Charlotte and North Carolina.
It brings competition, which we think will be good for our pocketbooks, Fort Mill Mayor Danny Funderburk told attendees at a preview event Tuesday in the Fort Mill store, on Gold Hill Road. Both new stores employ about 125 people.
Publix plans to open an even larger, 56,000-square-foot store in Ballantyne in 2014, which will be Publixs first store in North Carolina. The store will be the anchor tenant for Ballantyne Town Center, a shopping center at Providence Road West and Johnston Road.
Publix spokeswoman Brenda Reid said Tuesday that while the company is seeking additional locations in and around Charlotte, it doesnt have a definite number of stores it expects to open here. Local developer Daniel Levine has partnered with Florida commercial real estate firm Stiles, a preferred developer for Publix, to locate more retail sites to develop.
We dont have a set formula, Reid said. We open stores based on retail availability and interest.
Competing in North Carolina
North Carolina is Matthews-based grocer Harris Teeters home turf, with about two thirds of Harris Teeters stores located in the state. With both stores targeting the same higher-end grocery customers wallets, the chains are expected to compete directly with each other.
Grocery experts have said customers shouldnt necessarily expect a price war sparked by Publixs entry into the grocery market. Publix and Harris Teeter both compete on customer service, perceived quality and the shopping experience more than having the lowest price. Publix doesnt have a loyalty card like Harris Teeters VIC program, but it does offer some specific discount programs, such as the Publix Baby Club.
Publix officials say other retailers such as Wal-Mart may have lower prices, but Publix will attempt to deliver a noticeably higher standard of service. For example, Publix has in-store cooking demonstrations, in which employees cook a meal and sell all the products needed to make it together in one place. The store also offers event-planning services, such as ordering deli platters, bottles of wine, and floral arrangements, and will carry them to customers cars for no extra charge.
Harris Teeters activities
Harris Teeter has been investing millions of dollars in upgrading and rebuilding many of its key Charlotte-area stores, such as its Morrocroft, Plaza-Midwood, and Queens and Providence locations. All told, Harris Teeter is investing $215 million this year in store renovations and new stores within its existing markets, according to its most recent quarterly financial statement. The company plans to spend $255 million on such improvements next year.
Harris Teeter also bought 10 Charlotte-area Lowes Foods Stores, in exchange for $26.5 million cash and six Harris Teeter stores outside the city, this past summer. The deal further solidified Harris Teeters position in Charlotte.
And last week, Harris Teeter unveiled two new specialty stores, called 201central. Located in Huntersville and Wesley Chapel, they sell a mix of thousands of bottles of wine, hundreds of beers, specialty foods and cigars, and offer event planning services for customers.
Transplants to Charlotte from areas such as Florida and Georgia, which are saturated with Publix stores, were happy to be in the familiar retailer in Fort Mill.
David Carriker, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of York County, was at the store Tuesday to accept a $2,500 check from Publix for programs to help at-risk youth. Theyre a great company to work with, said Carriker, who was very familiar with Publix from years living in Atlanta.
But in addition to the donation from Publix, Carriker was also excited to be able to buy a staple after-work food from the grocery store, one that he missed from his time in Atlanta: Their fried chicken.