When Kroger announced last month it was closing all its Triangle stores and laying off 1,500 workers, the news hit hard. Fans of the Cincinnati-based chain cited its convenience, friendly service and affordability. Local Tweeters called the move “devastating,” “emotionally agonizing,” “a modern day tragedy.”
Hyperbole aside, Kroger spokespeople say the decision came because the Raleigh-Durham grocery store market has become too competitive. But the news was also surprising to many here in Wake County, who have watched as Wegmans after Publix, Lidl after Aldi, ubiquitous Food Lion after omnipresent Harris Teeter, have opened—or announced plans to open—more and more locations, all over the map, at an aggressive pace.
So which is it? Too competitive already, or not yet competitive enough?
David Livingston, a Wisconsin-based supermarket analyst, said the East Coast is experiencing “an all out attack from Wegmans from the north, Publix from the south, Amazon from the clouds and Lidl in the middle” in the pages of the News and Observer. He predicted even more closures—500 from New Jersey to Key West—along the Eastern Seaboard, with Food Lion and Fresh Market particularly at risk. With all the new players, plus super centers such as Target and Wal-Mart, wholesalers including Costco and Sam’s and of course, online retailers like Amazon, it’s hard to predict how the grocery store wars will shake out in one of the nation’s fastest-growing areas. But local Kroger fans, perhaps, can take comfort in the fact that a well-curated local icon, and an affordable alternative—Kroger subsidiary Harris Teeter and Food Lion—will take over nine of 14 current Kroger locations. And, maybe, prices will drop across the board as stores vie to compete in such a saturated and unpredictable landscape. At least, a shopper can dream.
Here’s a look at the grocery stores we already have here in Raleigh, as well as what’s on the horizon.