Here comes Walmart again

The biggest opportunity in the Charleston area for grocery shopping is the lack of competition.  Sure, there are lots of stores. But there’s not someone challenging these old-line, neighborhood stores like Food Lion, Bi-Lo and Piggly Wiggly. These are stores that are conveniently located, but have no real competition.

They survive generally because they’re the only store in a given area. People just go there because they always have.  They go out of habit. Because there is nothing else in that immediate area.

That’s about to change.

Walmart has been seeing a lack of growth in their Supercenter stores and it’s easy to see why. These are enormous stores and shopping at them is a time-consuming task. They are crowded. They are filled with the lowest common denominator of society.  It takes a long time to park in a huge parking lot and go into a Walmart Supercenter.  If you just need to grab a few things, it really isn’t an option that makes a lot of sense.

So Walmart is branching out.  Since 1998, they have been building what they call “Neighborhood Markets.”  These are smaller stores, about 1/4 the size of a Supercenter. I have been in Neighborhood Market stores in other cities and they are fantastic.  Here’s a great write-up and review of a location that opened awhile back in North Carolina.

Walmart Neighborhood Markets are already open elsewhere in South Carolina. There is one that opened this year in Myrtle Beach as well as several in the Upstate. As of right now, I am aware of 3 that are in the planning stages for the Charleston market:

St. James Avenue in Goose Creek

Bacon’s Bridge and Dorchester Road in Summerville

Long Point Road in Mount Pleasant. This isn’t officially announced as a Neighborhood Market location, but the local HOA says it is and I believe them. The developer is still trying to get their plan approved.

I know, I know…Walmart is the great Satan, right? The destroyer of small business.  The evil ruiner of all that is good and right in the world. Low wages, etc.

I don’t care about any of that and you shouldn’t either.  The bottom line is this: as long as Walmart isn’t breaking any laws, they should be welcomed with open arms.  And here is why: the Charleston grocery shopping market is crying out for competition because we don’t really have any.  Bi-Lo, Food Lion, Piggly Wiggly, Harris Teeter and Publix all have a stranglehold on their locations and client base.  There is no one to *really* give them a run for their money.

We need these neighborhood markets.  I’m particularly excited about the one in Goose Creek, since it is the closest one to me.  it will set up shop across the street from Bi-Lo and Publix.  I can’t wait to shop there.

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