Charlotte’s top grocery stores vie for market share

Charlotte’s top grocery stores vie for market share
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This was last updated on March 30 at 8:25am. 

Walmart has 21.1% of the grocery-store market share in the region, making its Supercenter brand Charlotte’s largest grocer by sales.

That’s according to the latest report from Chain Store Guide, a sales-tracking firm that examined 2020 grocery revenue in seven counties in North Carolina (Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan and Union) and three in South Carolina (Chester, Lancaster and York).

A few notes on the next largest grocers:

  • No. 2 Harris Teeter: The Matthews-based, Kroger-owned grocer has for years fought for the top spot with Walmart.
  • No. 3 Food Lion: Based in Salisbury, Food Lion has the largest local footprint of any other grocer. It operates 104 stores in the region.
  • No. 4 Publix: The Florida grocer entered North Carolina in 2014 with its Ballantyne store and has been expanding rapidly since then. Publix opened its newest store last fall in Marvin.
Grocery-store market share

Grocery-store market share (Data: Chain Store Guide; Chart: Axios Visuals)

Why it matters: Thanks to the city’s growing population, Charlotte’s grocery industry is extremely competitive. Newcomers like Lidl and Publix are growing their local footprint, while established operators like Harris Teeter are revamping some stores to keep up with shopper trends.

As essential businesses during the pandemic, grocery stores have remained open and busy this past year.

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  • At the onset of the pandemic, grocery stores were slammed as customers stockpiled essentials like water and toilet paper. Grocers limited purchases of certain items amid high demand, and scaled down their store capacities to align with local safety guidelines.
  • Stores like Sam’s Club expanded offerings like curbside pickup to accommodate customers who opt to stay in their cars.

    Of note: Whole Foods, which Amazon bought in 2017, didn’t crack the top 10. Here’s where the next most popular grocers stack up in Charlotte:

    • 11. Dollar General (2% market share)
    • 12. BJ’s Wholesale (1.8% market share)
    • 13. Whole Foods Market (1.7% market share)
    • 14. Walmart Neighborhood Market (1.7% market share)
    • 15. Dollar Tree Stores (1.5% market share)
    • 16. Ingles Markets (1.2% market share)
    • 17. The Kroger Co. (1.1% market share)
    • 18. Trader Joe’s (1% market share)
    • 19. The Fresh Market (0.6% market share)
    • 20. Compare Foods (0.4% market share)

    Since 2019, the ranking of Charlotte’s top 10 grocers is mostly unchanged. The biggest mover last year, however, was Sam’s Club, which Walmart owns and which has seven stores in the Charlotte area.

    Sam’s Club grew the most market share (rising from 5.3% in 2019 to 6% in 2020) as consumers shopped in bulk during the pandemic.

    • Sam’s Club added six times the number of members in 2020 than in 2019, according to the company. Members are shopping online more, too: E-commerce sales have grown 40% in the last year.
    • Customers downloaded the Sam’s Club app 9.6 million times. “We’ve always been hyper-focused on developing technology that makes the shopping experience convenient. In the last year, we’ve accelerated that work to meet the needs of our members,” spokesperson Rachel Nipper said in an email.

    Lidl, the German market that opened its first store in North Carolina in 2017, also gained market share as it opened two new stores here. [Go deeper]

    • Lidl’s assortment of groceries and low prices resonate with shoppers, spokesperson Chandler Ebeier said in an email. “We are receiving positive feedback from our customers in the Charlotte area.”
    Lidl's first Charlotte grocery store

    The first Lidl store in the city of Charlotte opened in late 2019 on Monroe Road. (Katie Peralta Soloff/Axios)

    I’m keeping my eye on a few big trends moving forward.

    • Southeastern Grocers, which owns Bi-Lo and Harveys, will lose market share, and Food Lion will likely gain market share. That’s because last year, Food Lion announced plans to acquire 62 stores from Southeastern Grocers, including a few in the Charlotte metro. It’ll convert them into Food Lions.
    • Lidl will keep growing. In Charlotte, the company has stores planned on South Boulevard, Carmel Commons, Steele Creek and Mallard Creek, among other areas.
    • Publix plans to grow its Charlotte footprint, too. The grocer confirmed it’ll anchor a new 60-acre mixed-use development in Huntersville, plus it has stores planned in Uptown (at 10 Tryon) and at Carmel Commons.
    • Despite the supermarket competition across the region, there are plenty of neighborhoods in Charlotte without a grocery store. Grassroots efforts to address food deserts range from community gardens to farmers markets.

    Here’s the full list of Charlotte’s top grocers, plus where they’ve ranked in the past.

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