Yeah, I did it.
But, in actuality, the title is a bit of a misnomer.
Today, I took my first trip to Publix in Virginia on the first day anyone could walk into a Publix in Virginia. But about two weeks ago, I visited the Publix that recently opened near my brother's house in New Bern, North Carolina.
Now, admittedly, both were quick trips, the first cut short by weather, the second by the desire to get just what we needed and get out of the sea of humanity that, of course, was drawn to the new store because, if you want to get Richmonders riled up about something that isn't politics or The Civil War, just mention a grocery store.
The Lukhards, Siegel's, A&P's, Safeways, Farm Fresh's, Big Star's, Food Fair's and, yes, Ukrop's, of the past are just that, in the past. With Lidl on the horizon in just days, Aldi continuing to expand, Food Lion remodeling everywhere and Martin's bidding adieu, just what will Publix do in a market now headed up by, of all places, (ugh) Walmart?
A few thoughts from a guy fascinated by the grocery business from the outside.....
1) Publix is going after Wegmans. Now, I expect their Staples Mill location, which opens July 29 replacing a Martin's (which replaced a Ukrop's), to have to go after Kroger just down the road, thus, I expect to see some lower regular prices on some items. I expect Publix to have the same price, especially sale prices seen in circulars, at all locations like everybody else. But a cursory look at some regular prices at Publix, at both stores, tell me they will struggle with getting people like me who shop almost completely with sales and have no problem going to four stores to do so. Publix will rely a lot on building loyalty. That can take a generation in Richmond.
2) Publix is the closest thing you'll see to a Ukrop's. When Martin's arrived, they painted the walls, hung signs with their font, put on green shirts, and moved the shopping carts outside. It all went downhill from there. At Publix, they're happy to carry your groceries to your car, their prepared area reminds you of Ukrop's (only it is bigger), but the back of the store is surprisingly crowded. The back aisle is small. I'm sure it'll be easier to navigate in a few weeks when half of the 23060 zip code isn't there trying to buy dinner.
3) Wegmans isn't Ukrop's. To me, Wegmans is a strange combination, now that I've seen two, of Publix and Sam's Club. Huge, wooden, meant for families of six or more. Need 48 rolls of toilet paper or five pounds of ground beef at a place where you'll get status points in your neighborhood by being seen there? Wegmans is your jam. They won't make a huge dent in Richmond market share until they build at least two more locations. They need to be in Hanover (301 makes sense, 360 is, sadly, more likely) and they'd be smart to build somewhere along 295 where they'd get weekly shoppers from the Tri-Cities, Sandston, Varina, and Chester. They'll probably end up somewhere way west on Hull Street instead.
I plan to get back to Publix and really comparison shop one day before the month ends, and I found a few good deals, and didn't mind the fact that I wasn't asked for a Valued Customer Card (I had to explain to Rachel today that we have Ukrop's to thank for that phenomenon). The bagger in our lane is actually from South Carolina, up for awhile to help with the opening. That was impressive. Publix seems very committed to the area.
So, in closing, my thoughts about who stays and who goes in Richmond? We will have way too many grocery stores for a market this size to support.....
Well, we won't know for probably three years. That gives Publix and Lidl time to be sampled and settled and Food World time to give us a couple of annual reports on market share to see if they make a splash, and whether anyone established (aka Wegmans) can really challenge the top three.
Currently, the market share looks like this (according to Food World in its 2017 report in June):
1) Walmart (16.06%, 21 stores, including Neighborhood Markets)
2) Kroger (15.71%, 18 stores)
3) Food Lion (14.21%, 49 stores)
4) CVS (7.04%, 65 stores)
5) Martin's (6.61%, 12 stores)
6) Wawa (5.80%, 28 stores)
7) Target (4.19%, 12 stores)
8) Walgreens (3.94%, 27 stores)
9) 7-Eleven (3.30%, 83 stores)
10) Sam's Club (3.10%, 4 stores)
11) Wegmans (2.94%, 2 stores)
Aldi is currently 15th, 1.65% with ten locations. Fresh Market is 17th.
The total amount of food sales in the last 12 month period measured by the publication? $3.71 billion dollars.
That's a lot of plastic bags. BTW, PSA, I like taking bags to the store. :)
Drugs, general merchandise, tobacco sales are all included.
Martin's lost over half its market share (13.92% in 2016's report) as they get ready to leave RVA. CVS jumped .65% in part due to entering Target stores. Walmart actually sold $700,000 less in groceries, yet gained market share by .23%, while Kroger sold $48.4 million more and gained 1.54% share.
I'm excited about our Lidl opening soon (I bet August) down Staples Mill at Hermitage and may venture to the (ugh) Short Pump store when it opens, just to get a peek.
Right now, though, for me, it's still, show me the sales, and I'll be there, with Kroger getting most of my grocery business, followed up by Aldi, then Food Lion if I have to.