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Billion-dollar battle: Where Charlotte grocery shoppers spent money in record amounts

For the fifth year in a row, Walmart is capturing more Charlotte-area shoppers’ grocery budget dollars despite heated competition from local grocers like Harris Teeter and Food Lion.

It’s a lucrative market that saw record sales of $10.2 billion last year, a 7.4%increase from $9.5 billion in 2022, according to a new report by Chain Store Guide. The sales tracking firm gets its data directly from grocery stores.

Walmart also came out on top again with the most sales revenue of any grocer in the region, the report found. It grabbed 23% of the grocery market share last year, slightly down from 2022, but that still accounted for $2.3 billion in revenue.

“They have everything all in stop and good prices,” said Kelli Burke of Matthews, while shopping Wednesday at Walmart in The Arboretum shopping center. “It’s nice to not have to worry about if they have sales because the pricing always stays around the same.”

Matthews-based grocer Harris Teeter, owned by The Kroger Co., was second for the fifth year with 16% of the market share in 2023, about the same as 2022. Salisbury-based Food Lion, owned by Ahold Delhaize, consistently ranked third. Food Lion took 14.9% of the market share last year, up from 13.8% in 2022.

The trio of chains continue to comprise more than half of all local grocery sales.

Walmart dominates the Charlotte market for two reasons: location and price, said “Supermarket Guru” Phil Lempert, who analyzes consumer behavior and market trends.

“Walmart’s buying power is just so much greater than any other chain that they can deliver better prices on consumer-packaged prices,” Lempert said. Walmart’s private label may not do as well as others, but for national brand prices, “Walmart is going to be beat everybody else on prices.”

And, Lempert said, since the pandemic with inflation, rising prices, and food and labor shortages, “consumers have gone to Walmart (when they) have never gone to Walmart before to buy food.”

While shopping at Walmart at The Arboretum in Charlotte on Wednesday, Kelli Burke of Matthews said she likes shopping there because of the pricing and convenience. That attitude is reflected in the company dominating the region’s grocery market share for the fifth year in a row.
While shopping at Walmart at The Arboretum in Charlotte on Wednesday, Kelli Burke of Matthews said she likes shopping there because of the pricing and convenience. That attitude is reflected in the company dominating the region’s grocery market share for the fifth year in a row.

Trailing Walmart

After Walmart, Harris Teeter saw $1.6 billion in regional sales and Food Lion had $1.5 billion, according to the report.

Separately, Walmart Neighborhood Market’s eight area stores gained $165.3 million in sales for 1.6% of the market share. The report counts those smaller store sales separately from the Walmart supercenters.

Walmart has 32 supercenter stores in the region, Harris Teeter has 60 stores and Food Lion has 103 regional stores.

In the report, the Charlotte region includes Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan and Union counties as well as Chester, Lancaster and York counties in South Carolina.

Walmart continues to be the top choice for shoppers, which is the No. 1 grocery store by market share, according to industry sales tracking firm Chain Store Guide. Shown is the Walmart at The Arboretum that reopened Wednesday, March 27, 2024, as a supercenter.
Walmart continues to be the top choice for shoppers, which is the No. 1 grocery store by market share, according to industry sales tracking firm Chain Store Guide. Shown is the Walmart at The Arboretum that reopened Wednesday, March 27, 2024, as a supercenter.

Other grocers in the Charlotte area

Rounding out the top 10 in market share after the top three were: Publix, 10.3%; Sam’s Club, 5.7%; Costco Wholesale, 4.3%; Super Target, 4.2%; Lidl, 2.8%; Dollar General, 2.3%. and Aldi 2.1%.

Target saw the biggest jump, up 2.1%, from 10th in 2022.

Dollar General also passed Aldi, which slid from No. 8 in 2022. Last year, Dollar General jumped into the top 10 for the first time since it tied with Aldi in 2018. Publix also saw increased revenue for the first time top $1 million.

After the top 10, here’s how other stores ranked for capturing market share: Whole Foods Market, 1.6%; BJ’s Wholesale Club, 1.5%, Ingles,1.5%; Family Dollar, 1%; Trader Joe’s, 0.9%; Earth Fare, 0.8%; Dollar Tree, 0.8%; The Fresh Market, 0.6%; Lowes Foods, 0.5% and Compare Foods, 0.4%.

Another 96 stores made up 3.2% of the market share, down from 106 stores and 3% market share in 2022.

Walmart, which has dominated the Charlotte region by market share for five years, has been renovating some stores, including 3209 Pineville-Matthews Road. On Wednesday, March 27, 2024, the store unveiled expanded groceries including fresh produce.
Walmart, which has dominated the Charlotte region by market share for five years, has been renovating some stores, including 3209 Pineville-Matthews Road. On Wednesday, March 27, 2024, the store unveiled expanded groceries including fresh produce.

How Walmart is winning over shoppers

Walmart has dominated the Charlotte market share since 2019, knocking Harris Teeter from the No. 1 perch that year. Harris Teeter had held the top ranking from 2016 to 2018.

Walmart has been renovating stores with new layouts, checkout lane changes and new in-store digital features as part of the Arkansas-based retail giant’s $9 billion investment upgrading more than 1,400 store across the U.S.

Last week, the Walmart at 3209 Pineville-Matthews Road in The Arboretum reopened as a supercenter, adding fresh produce and meats, a bakery and more frozen and refrigerated food. It’s one of the first 150 Walmart store developments or conversions in the country.

The store store previously had limited groceries, said Tyler Sigler, market manager for 10 stores in North Carolina from Charlotte to Pinehurst. “We heard our customers loud and clear,” Sigler said about the need for more groceries.

Although the 116,000-square-foot space remains the same after the remodel, new features include wider aisles and removal of drop ceilings for a roomier feel. The pharmacy has been expanded with more aisles, five drop-off and pickup bays and a private consultation room. The store’s 22 registers have been reconfigured with over half self-checkout lanes now.

Each Walmart also has a front lobby wall mural showcasing the local community. The store has about 160 full- and part-time workers.

Balakrishna Tupakula, who was shopping with his wife Yamuna, during the store’s reopening Wednesday, said he shops there because its budget-friendly. He said he can find anything from groceries to home goods, stationary and automotive products.

Before more groceries were added, Tupakula shopped at Patel Brothers and Costco. “Now we can buy from here. I can find anything I want,” he said. “The quality is good.”

It’s convenience that brings Burke into Walmart, too. Along with groceries, she picked up medications and shorts for her son. “It’s nice to go into one place in the rain and not have to go to multiple stores,” she said.

Balakrishna Tupakula of Charlotte talks about why he likes shopping at Walmart on Wednesday, March 27, 2024, at the 3209 Pineville-Matthews Road store.
Balakrishna Tupakula of Charlotte talks about why he likes shopping at Walmart on Wednesday, March 27, 2024, at the 3209 Pineville-Matthews Road store.

Charlotte’s changing grocery store scene

Store expansions continue to shake-up where Charlotte supermarket customers shop.

There are 745 grocery stores in the Charlotte region, up from 722 in 2020, according to the report. This year, more grocery stores are expected to open, with several already planned in the Charlotte region.

This past January, Winston-Salem based grocer Lowes Foods opened a store on the southwest corner of Providence Road and Prescott Glenn Parkway at The Shops at Prescot Village. Lowes Foods has three area locations in Mooresville, Harrisburg and Huntersville, and plans to open three more in Concord, Kannapolis and Indian Land, S.C. The Concord store is expected to open in the fall, followed by the other sites over the next two years.

Last November, Phoenix-based specialty grocer Sprouts Farmers Market opened at 14124 Steele Creek Road in Steele Creek. It’s the chain’s second store in the Charlotte area after opening at 15121 Ballancroft Parkway in Ballantyne six years ago.

In February 2023, Publix opened a 48,387-square-foot store at North Creek Village in Huntersville. The Florida-based grocer, with 26 stores in the Charlotte market, is planning to open at least six more stores.

A 48,000-square-foot store at Harris Farms Shopping Center, on the northwest corner of Coddle Creek Highway and Kistler Farm Road, in Mooresville, is expected to open this year, Publix spokesman Jared Glover told the Observer Thursday.

A 55,000-square-foot store with a drive-thru and a proposed private drive at 11525 Carmel Commons should open early next year, Glover said.

Construction for The Arboretum store at Providence and Pineville-Matthews roads will start by the end of this year or early next year.

Publix stores also are planned at the 10 Tryon building on the corner of Tryon and Ninth streets in uptown; Clear Creek Crossings development on the corner of Albemarle and Rocky River Church roads; and The Colony on the corner of Sharon and Colony roads in SouthPark. No opening time frames have been set for any of those stores, Glover said.

Also this year, The West Boulevard Coalition is planning to break for Charlotte’s first cooperative grocery store in an area that’s been without a traditional supermarket for over 30 years. Three Sisters Market will be a full-service grocery store.

The grocery store expert is not surprised that Charlotte continues to experience steady growth in the number of stores it sees.

Charlotte is seeing an influx of younger people with higher income, who are more food involved, Lempert said, and they are willing to shop in two to four stores to find what they’re looking for.