Food Lion will spend $215 million to remodel its 142 Charlotte-area stores this year, the latest bid by a local grocer to differentiate itself in the increasingly competitive supermarket industry.
Part of a campaign it’s calling “Easy, Fresh and Affordable,” the project includes redesigning stores into easy-to-navigate formats, adding new decor, slashing prices on staples like chicken and produce and updating product assortments, Food Lion said Wednesday.
The campaign also includes what the company calls a “customer-centric” way of training employees.
“In the greater Charlotte area, Food Lion has been a neighborhood store and part of the fabric of the community for nearly 60 years. We are focused on bringing our customers an easy, fresh and affordable experience every time they choose to shop with us,” Food Lion President Meg Ham said Wednesday morning at the grocer’s Dilworth store.
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The store remodels are expected to be completed on a rolling basis between May and October. Construction on about 40 stores has already begun, Ham said. Stores will remain open throughout the process since construction will mostly take place at night.
Food Lion debuted a prototype of the new store format in Concord in December 2013. The new design features more dinner options in the deli, a walk-in cooler for its produce department and new registers with bigger screens.
Included in the new “Charlotte-area” remodels are some more distant locations, including in Boone, Blowing Rock and Statesville.
Some stores will experiment with new concepts, Ham added. About 20 stores, for example, including the Dilworth location, will get new produce coolers designed to keep fruits and vegetables at just the right temperatures.
Also as part of Food Lion’s announcement Wednesday, the company said it has donated $1.5 million to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina’s warehouse expansion.
Charlotte’s the fourth market to be remodeled. Food Lion revamped 76 stores in the Wilmington and Greenville, N.C., markets in 2014, and completed another 162 stores in the Raleigh market in 2015.
As part of the redesign campaign, the grocer said it has already made some smaller changes in Charlotte stores, including product expansion, new registers, lower prices and customer service improvements.
Competition in the low-cost grocery market has been heating up in Charlotte as Walmart expands with its Neighborhood Market concept and as European grocers like Aldi and Lidl embark on major expansions. Bi-Lo announced in January it would lower prices by up to 50 percent on more than 400 frequently purchased items.
“There’s competition everywhere we look, and I think that’s good and it makes us better,” Ham said.
Food Lion is Charlotte’s No. 3 supermarket chain by market share, behind Walmart and Harris Teeter.
Last summer, Food Lion’s parent company, Delhaize, agreed to a merger with Dutch retailer Ahold in a deal that will create the fifth-largest supermarket operator in the U.S.