Grocery Store Wars: Nearly Two Dozen Store Chains Fighting For Your Grocery Dollars, And More Are Coming

CHARLOTTE, NC.–Seven billion dollars! That’s how much money people in the Charlotte region spent on groceries last year. There are nearly two dozen store chains fighting for your grocery dollars, and more are coming.

Groceries are big business in the Charlotte region. There are 21 chains with more than 600 stores trying to get your food dollars. Harris Teeter is the leader. According to Chain Store Guide, it had more than $1.4 billion in sales in 2017. Walmart is second with $1.3 billion in sales. Coming in third is Food Lion with $1.2 billion in sales. Publix is fourth with 500 million in sales last year.

When Myra Rodriguez heads to the checkout, her main thought is: Prices. With seven mouths to feed, she’s one of the nearly 945,000 local households grocers are trying to lure into their stores. So we did the shopping for her. The list, mostly made up of lunch meat, fruit, milk, bread and other necessities.

Here are the final totals:
HARRIS TEETER= $14.95
FOOD LION= $14.94
PUBLIX= $13.82
WALMART= $12.54
LIDL= $8.54
ALDI= $6.47

Aldi has the lowest prices hands down. Experts told me that’s because they’re able to cut costs by not having as many employees, basic store layouts and by having their own labels. Aldi has 26 stores scattered throughout the Charlotte region. Food Lion has the most with 105.

The median age of a grocery shopper in the Charlotte region is 37, and the average household income is just over $79,000. Some of those shoppers are willing to pay more, if that means they don’t have to travel as far.

“I think it’s a convenience factor as well as kind of just being used to it,” says shopper Matt Tcherkezian.

Lidl is the Charlotte regions’s newest grocer. The German-based chain just hit the U.S. last summer as a cheaper alternative. A UNC Chapel Hill study shows other grocery stores dropped their prices by more than 9% on average when Lidl opens a store nearby.

“The good news is probably for consumers is that you probably don’t have to go to the Lidl’s or the Aldi’s of the world but you can also find benefits from lower prices at your conventional supermarkets,” says Associate Professor of Marketing at UNC Chapel Hill Katrijn Gielens.

Right now, Lidl has stores in Gastonia, Shelby, Rock Hill and Indian land. Most millennials in Charlotte are not willing to make the drive, no matter how good the deal.

The totals for a millennial shopping cart–like a case of beer, chips, salsa, avocado and quinoa–

The totals come out to:
HARRIS TEETER= $33.76
PUBLIX= $31.89
WALMART= $27.11
FOOD LION= $25.25
ALDI= $20.34

Again – Aldi is the cheapest, but the other chains are trying to make up for their higher costs.

“The customer service is huge and I do go to Aldi and Walmart on times where I’m just running to get something and I don’t want to spend a ton of money. But having to do everything myself, bag my own groceries, all of that is a big thing for me,” says shopper Susan Searcy.

Offering luxury goods and extra amenities, helps too. Experts say good news for your wallet– as Lidl expands in our area, lower prices could expand too.

“The extent of the price reactions are quite fierce,” says Professor Gielens.

Experts say as more white collar businesses move in and attract food-obsessed millennials, Charlotte will be one of the best grocery markets in the country.