Kroger captured the lion's share of the Charlottesville area’s grocery market sales in 2012, according to a recent report by an industry trade publication.
Maryland-based Food World ranked 16 stores in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. They generated $383.6 million in total sales last year.
Ohio-based Kroger’s three stores had $104.2 million in sales and about 27 percent of the local grocery market. North Carolina-based Harris Teeter’s three stores came in second with $56.4 million and about 15 percent of the market.
Rounding out the top five are North Carolina-based Food Lion with four local stores, $41.7 million in sales and just shy of 11 percent of the market; Maryland-based Giant-Landover with $38.7 million in sales and 10 percent of the market; and Sam’s Club, with $26.6 million and just shy of 7 percent of the market.
Giant slipped from third to fourth in Food World’s ranking and closed one of its two area stores last summer.
Kroger spokeswoman Allison McGee credited the company’s customer-first approach, employees and fuel discount program as factors that enable the company to retain its lead. The company's three stores employ about 450 people.
A $2.65 million renovation is underway at the Barracks Road Kroger. McGee said a renovation for the Rio Hill location is planned for later this year or early next year. Kroger's Emmet Street store was remodeled in 2011.
Danna Jones, a spokeswoman for Harris Teeter, invoked a similar customer-focused approach in explaining the company's market dominance.
"Harris Teeter will continue to stay focused on what it does best — providing quality products at competitive prices, as well as the absolute best in customer service. These are the things to which we attribute our loyal shopper following."
The company has three stores — one at Barracks Road Shopping Center, one at the Hollymead Town Center and another in Crozet. They employ 356 people.
Since the last ranking, Trader Joe’s opened at Stonefield in late 2012 and The Fresh Market opened in February, bringing those stores to the area for the first time.
“I don't believe the recent changes will have a major overall effect on the Charlottesville market,” Terri Maloney, a Food World spokeswoman who helped to compile the study, said by email.
“However, having The Fresh Market and Trader Joe's will up the competition in the area, especially for the traditional supermarket operators, as shoppers continue to widen the variety of stores they visit on a regular basis to purchase food.”
Also last year, Wegmans announced plans to open a store in the Fifth Street Station development south of downtown. Maloney said Wegmans' presence will “create an instant and drastic change in the marketplace.”
“Their reputation precedes them, and shoppers will travel from a wide radius to shop at a Wegmans,” said Maloney. “The fact that they are a privately owned company also gives them an edge against much of the competition they face as they have much more flexibility to operate the way that they want to. They have not lost any focus on quality and service, and are able to keep their center-store prices very competitive.”
In an overall Mid-Atlantic market analysis, Food World publisher Jeff Metzger wrote that the “the high level of execution” at Wegmans attracts customers and keeps them coming back.
“Retail follows rooftops, and that is particularly true in the grocery business, where profit margins are slim,” Chris Engel, Charlottesville’s economic development director, said by email. “So while it may seem as though we are over-supplied, the number of grocery stores and the volume of food sales is a direct reflection of the consumer demand in the area.”
To qualify for inclusion in the study, which analyzed the 12-month period from April 2012 through March, supermarkets must operate at least two stores and convenience stores must have at least 20 corporate units (anywhere, not necessarily in the market region). This is the study's 35th year. Fuel sales are not included in the sales totals.
"Today's shoppers remain concerned about price as the economy continues to be sluggish and recovery still feels to the consumer that it's not quite in full gear," Maloney said. "However, when shopping for food and groceries, consumers are also looking for quality, freshness, variety and excitement. Trader Joe's, The Fresh Market and Wegmans all fit into that side of the equation."
Metzger said the road ahead for struggling grocery retailers will be rough.
“For those [stores] that are still breathing, but have experienced significant damage due to poor management, ill-fated strategies or lack of capital investment … the road to return to their former halcyon days will be extremely difficult,” Metzger wrote.
The Charlottesville area’s top 10 grocery stores by sales and market share in the region, according to trade publication Food World's latest market study:
Kroger: $104.2 million, 27.1 percent
Harris Teeter: $56.4 million, 14.7 percent
Food Lion: $41.7 million, 10.8 percent
Giant: $38.7 million, 10.1 percent
Sam’s Club: $26.6 million, 6.9 percent
CVS: $21.5 million, 5.6 percent
Whole Foods Market: $20.6 million, 5.3 percent
Wal-Mart: $14.6 million, 3.8 percent
Target: $13.5 million, 3.5 percent
The Fresh Market: $12.8 million, 3.3 percent