Greensboro-based The Fresh Market is hitting the brakes on its expansion.
In an email Thursday, the upscale grocery chain told the Observer that it will not be opening any new stores this year despite previously announced expansion plans.
The Fresh Market has six stores throughout Charlotte. One is under construction in the Strawberry Hill development in south Charlotte and will be the replacement location of the Fresh Market nearby that has remained open during construction. It’s unclear what Fresh Market will do with the Strawberry Hill location, but the store’s landlord expects it to open as planned.
But Scott Duggan, a Fresh Market senior vice president, said that the company will not comment on individual properties or leases at this time.
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“At present, the company believes the most efficient growth vehicle is to focus on improving core operations within its existing footprint, so it has decided not to open any previously announced new stores for 2018,” Duggan said in an email.
“Our focus remains on strengthening and growing our in-store operations, guest service program, merchandising selections, future offerings and, of course, our team members, as well as planning and executing new store openings after 2018.”
Shelly Johnson of Charlotte-based MPV Properties said that “nothing that we’ve seen has indicated they are slowing down the development of their new store” at Strawberry Hill.
It’s unclear how many stores are affected by Fresh Market’s decision. But media reports indicate the company had stores planned in Cape Coral, Fla. and Holly Springs (near Raleigh), among other locations.
According to Planned Grocery, a service that tracks grocery store development, Fresh Market has 12 stores in development: four under construction; five planned, meaning they have signed leases with developers; and three proposed stores in pre-development.
Fresh Market’s slowed expansion comes at a time when grocery competition in Charlotte is intensifying among high-end and discount grocers alike. The German grocer Lidl similarly is slowing its pace of growth, which affects at least two Charlotte-area stores.
Fresh Market commands a small percentage (0.9 percent) of Charlotte’s grocery sales, making it the area’s No. 17 grocery by market share, right behind Whole Foods, according to sales-tracking firm Chain Store Guide.
Fresh Market went public in 2010 but later sold itself in March 2016 to Apollo Global Management for $1.36 billion. A few months later, the company announced plans to lower prices, boost its selection of groceries and introduce new in-store features, such as new sampling stations.
Last year, Fresh Market closed five stores in New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Florida and Illinois, according to Supermarket News. In 2016, the upscale grocer closed 18 stores, all of which were in Texas, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas.