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Someone explain Charlotte grocery store pricing?

I moved from Houston, TX to Charlotte in November '08. I've been shcoked by the prices in the major grocery stores. Based on my experiences in Houston, it goes beyond gouging, it's almost robbery. Prices are higher by as much as 30% on items ranging from $1.00 to $7.99. I work in sales and I know about setting a very high (unrealistic) regular price so you can have a huge discount, look like a hero to your customers and still make a healthy profit. That seems to be what's going on here. A few examples (regular price to regular price): 12-pack of soda $5.89 (v. $3.99 in TX) Nathan's Franks ($5.19 v. $3.89 in TX), head lettuce $1.89 (v. $1.09 in TX). Knorr Chicken boullion $1.59 (v. $1.09 in TX). I'm comparing H-T, Lowe's, etc. to HEB in Texas, certainly not a discounter. The only times I go to H-T, etc. is for specials. Otherwise, it's off to Target and Wal-Mart. I have to make trips to four different stores every 6-7 days to take care of all my needs, when in the past, it was to one, or maybe two stores. I do a lot of driving just to save on lettuce, but I will not pay these prices. With ridiculously high regular prices and buy-one-get-one specials, I have to think that the only times these items move are when they are on sale. Otherwise, they sit. I can't think vendors are happy with this. Lastly, an observation that there is an oversaturation of stores in the Charlotte area. They seem to be everywhere, and no matter what the day or time, they're never busy. Any thoughts?
Thanks,

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  1. H-T does set their prices a little higher, to look "cheap" when theres a VIC "special" on it. But I can't say I've noticed a $2 head of lettuce or $6 12-pack! Thats ridiculous. There are way too many 'Teeters around, but the ones I go to always seem busy. Food Lion has better prices on normal items, and Bi-Lo too, but I do like the produce at H-T. I guess I've just gotten used to shopping at 2 or 3 stores for different items.

    1 Reply
    1. re: billyjack

      I would never look at teeter as a place to go for good value. They have a better than average produce section but that varies place to place. in Winston they are higher than Whole Foods for many items. I find Lowes Foods does good Chicken and beef, HT produce and some specialty items, farmer market for eggs, asian store for rice and condiments(sriracha $1.50 cheaper at least), local beekeeper for honey(easily 50% less). It helps that I am all over the place in my job but with planning you can round up staples in advance in one loop just with many stops.

      I also think it depends if your buyer more packaged foods. The more you buy package food the more Walmart makes sense.

      As to oversaturation, I think that depends on your side of town. In most of carolinas bigger cities there is an abundance of tetters and lowes but just hit the east side in any major metro and you are in a grocery store drought

    2. You're absolutely right, 53latour. It's HT is what it is. They have a monopoly on the retail grocery stores and so they can set the prices. Everywhere you look there is a HT with a Lowe's Foods thrown in here or there. HT is headquartered here so that's part of it too. But let's face it, in Charlotte, you can't throw a stone without hitting a HT.

      This is the very reason I was so surprised by a recent thread titled "In Praise of Harris Teeter" here on chowhound. Check it out: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/601809.

      1. As lynn pointed out, HT is headquartered in Charlotte, and I've never seen "Taj Mahal" grocery stores like the HT's in North Carolina. HT was nothing special in South Carolina and definitely wasn't the flagship brand in any of the towns I lived in there.

        As for oversaturation, I'd say that's probably dependent on the part of town you frequent. If you're in a heavily residential area with lots of new development, grocery stores will be popping up like weeds. I've noticed that drugstores are the same way - I can't think of too many intersections here in Raleigh that don't have a CVS, Walgreens, and Eckerds all right across the street from each other!

        I do have one question, though - does visiting four different stores really make up for any price differences? That seems a little extreme to me, but then it's a well-known fact in my family that I have very little patience anyway. :-)

        7 Replies
        1. re: Suzy Q

          "popping up like weeds"... you are so right about the grocery stores, CVS, Walgreens, etc. too. Suburbia is a wasteland of these places.

          I can't and won't drive all over the place for the best bargain. Time is a precious commodity I can't waste in that way.

          1. re: lynnlato

            Lynnlato, I will probably get beaten down as time goes on and end up going to the most convenient store, but as I've only been here a few months, I just can't justify allowing H-T, et. al. to "win". I know it's probably a wash in terms of time and gas versus higher prices. I'm a former restaurant cook and like to go to the store every 2-3 days to get fresh ingredients (my freezer is virtually empty). I live in north Charlotte near Concord Mills Mall. As for saturation, there are loads of major grocery stores around here. They only have a handful of customers in these humongous stores at any one time. I can't believe that these individual stores, despite the high prices, are making a profit.

            1. re: 53latour

              It's easy to make a profit when you charge $2.50 for a bell pepper!! :-)

              1. re: 53latour

                I hear ya. I'm like u, I shop about every 2 days. I should own stock in HT, really I should. But I'd rather have choice - unfortunately, I don't have it here in the South Charlotte fringe suburbs. It's HT or starve, for the most part. But I hit the Farmers Markets in season. I'd rather eliminate the middle man and give my $$ to the farmers than to a corporation. We have great farmers markets around all over town and I would urge you to check them out. They should be back up and running every weekend come April. Here is a link to a list of the local markets:

                http://charlotte.about.com/od/diningn...

                Welcome to the area.

                1. re: lynnlato

                  I know its not located conveniently for everyone but the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market near the airport on Yorkmont is open year round. Amazingly there is something coming out of the ground even is the coldest of winter. Of course as we approach spring the selection will begin to expand into a huge selection. Always available pork from Grateful Growers Farms, Farm Fresh eggs, Chickens from Gilcrest Farms, they now carry beef as well, Herbs,
                  Also available - Goat Cheese,and Lots of local bounty.

            2. re: Suzy Q

              Food Lion is HQ'd in Charlotte as well and I certainly see a lot less of those than I do HT's. And I think we can all agree that the prices of FL are a lot lower than HT.

              Wonder if having the 2 of them HQ's in NC (well, and Lowe's Foods for that matter) so 3, is what keeps other grocery chains out of NC?

              Factor in Ahold/Bi-Lo HQ's SC and that's 4 major grocery stores HQ'd in a 50 mile radius.

              I betcha they're all sitting around in the skybox at Charlotte Motor Speedway rigging the prices!

            3. I experience the same frustration here in Raleigh. I've been here since 1992 so I never really knew much about the cost of food in other regions but my Mom moved here from Tampa last year and was in SHOCK over the prices of all food things.

              The Whole Foods here is indeed, less expensive, for produce than any of the regular grocery stores. My local store (within walking distance) is a Lowe's Foods. I typically do my shopping there out of convenience but the prices are outrageous and the produce quality is blech.....

              I happened to stop at the Super Wal-Mart the other day - I have avoided shopping at Wal-Mart for years for a variety of reasons but I was in search of a certain type of plastic tumbler that I haven't been able to track down at my usual stores.

              Any way, while I was there, I strolled through the grocery part and was shocked at the difference in prices. For example, at Lowe's this week Florida Avocados (not the Hass) were on "special" for $2 a piece. The WM had Hass for .78 - I just can't understand it. Ground turkey was almost a full $2 cheaper than what I pay at my Lowe's. Strawberries at Lowe's this week - almost $4, they were I think $2.50 at WM.

              Land O' Lakes butter was cheaper at Wal-Mart than what I pay for the store brand at Lowe's....it was really mind boggling.

              I happened to be in Atlanta in January and had to run into a Kroger to pick something up - so of course I took a stroll through the aisles looking at prices of things that I normally buy. The thing that stuck out most in my mind was the price disparity for Goya Black Beans - over a $1 here, .79 there. Also, Crystal Hot Sauce, which is my favorite go to - .87 for the same size bottle that I pay 1.29 - 1.80 for IF I can find it.

              It's massively frustrating!

              I wonder if in part, they charge those prices because THEY can. I mean in reality, Raleigh & Charlotte have for the most part - experienced fantastic economic growth, low unemployment (I can remember a few years back the RTP region had negative unemployment......)

              I've noticed HT has started running commercials with their super discounts for the week - wonder if it's a sign of things to come. I sure hope so because we are definitely getting gouged.

              It would be interesting if any CH's have any insight as to why/how grocery prices are so high in the metro areas of NC

              14 Replies
              1. re: chicaraleigh

                I think you're probably right about these being relatively prosperous areas. I remember when we moved here from PA 12 yrs ago and I began shopping at Bi-Lo and HT. I was shocked that the grocery stores here didn't regularly double their coupons (they mostly do now but back then they didn't). But back then we had more choices as to where to grocery shop. But in the past few years HT has pushed out the Hannafords, Food Lions, Bi-Lo's, etc.... at least that's true in my neck of the woods.

                Chica, I can't believe that Whole Foods produce is cheaper than the other grocery stores - that's crazy!

                1. re: lynnlato

                  Lynn, I know - it just doesn't seem to make sense that WF would be cheaper, but I swear to you, on produce that I regularly buy, lettuce, berries, cukes, stuff like that - the WF is less expensive than my local Lowe's and HT. I never really checked prices on onions, which I use a ton of.

                  Problem is, the nearest WF is a 15-20 minute drive, so.....

                  I'm heading over to the WF tomorrow (big Saturday outing!) and will check out prices on onions also. I just bought a bag at Lowe's last week for 2.99 - so we'll see how WF stacks up. And since I have the WM experience fresh in mind - I'll be scouting prices on that too. Not that it really matters, but my curiosity is piqued now.

                  I wonder if some of the ethnic groceries (Asian, Mexican, Indian) would have better prices on produce? Of course I'm not really located near any of those either so with the time & gas factor....is it even worth it?

                  Do you guys have Kroger's down there? They seem to be kind of middle of the road meaning, not as expensive as HT but a step up from Food Lion. Again, don't have one near me so I don't go very often.

                  We don't even have Hannafords up here....just HT, FL, Lowe's, Kroger....If we ever get a Publix I think I'll be in heaven!

                  1. re: chicaraleigh

                    Which WF are you visiting in Raleigh? I'd love to find a cheap one.

                    Also, in Raleigh, nothing beats the Farmers Market. The big one is great, but there are also smaller Farmers Markets during the summer in Cary, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, etc. Great produce at decent prices.

                    Oh, and if you're near Cary, check out the Grand Asia Market at South Hills. Unbelievable prices on their stuff there, everything from produce to seafood. I don't know much about Charlotte, but if they have any large ethnic markets there, I'd definitely recommend checking them out.

                    1. re: Suzy Q

                      The Lowe's that I go to is right off of Glenwood behind Carmax, my closest HT is Leesville/Strickland

                      The closest WF is Wade Avenue - and the prices are definitely cheaper than my Lowe's

                      Now, I wouldn't go so far as to say it's "cheap" but it's definitely "cheaper" than my Lowe's

                      I agree the Farmer's Market is great! I really like the one in Carrboro and Durham too.

                      Do you know of any food co-ops in or around the Raleigh area? I know of one in Durham

                      Sounds like I'll have to make the trek over to Grand Asia Market - the last bottle of Sriracha that I bought at the HT was over $3.00 - I couldn't believe it!

                      Sorry - didn't mean to hijack the Charlotte thread......

                    2. re: chicaraleigh

                      No Krogers, Publix or Hannafords (Hannafords folded several yrs ago) near me either. Publix would be a nice addition. I visited one in Atlanta and liked the experience. They're prepared foods (fried chicken, sandwiches, etc) also seemed superior to HT.

                      I don't do the ethnic grocery stores unless I'm looking for something unique. They just are too far to travel to. Although HungryGrayCat sang praise for Compare Foods (Mexican/Latino market) and they're produce and prices. We have Trader Joes, Earthfare & The Fresh Market but I wouldn't use any of them for produce. Although I'll sometimes pick up bell peppers at TJ's because the price is so much better than HT.

                      I'm so ready for the Farmers Market to be open regularly again. Admittedly, I don't visit much over the winter b/c I'm not big on winter greens.

                      1. re: lynnlato

                        I grew up with Publix in Tampa, so I'm not sure if it's nostalgia but when I do get down to FL I always hit the Publix just to "check it out"

                        I'm pathetic.....I go on vacation and check out the grocery store?!?

                        1. re: chicaraleigh

                          not pathetic at all. I made it a point to stop in on a Publix while in Charleston, SC last week. Stocked up on some baked goods and Publix Premium brand products. I love the distinctive "Publix" smell of the stores - it's the exact same it was back in FL and takes me back to my childhood. It's amazing that customer service can be so competent and genteel, produce and freshly-made goods on par with WF, yet prices around Kroger's level. Publix rocks and would get 100% of my business if they ever came to NC.

                          1. re: mikeh

                            thanks mikeh - i'm feeling less pathetic now :-)

                            1. re: chicaraleigh

                              I LOVE PUBLIX. If they opened in the Triangle, I'd be the first one in line at the store!

                          2. re: chicaraleigh

                            I grew up with Publix and miss it. I always go in groceries when I travel! They tell you a lot about an area and you often find regional products you've never seen before.

                            1. re: meatn3

                              I do this too...it can be frustrating for anyone who happens to come grocery shopping with me, I like to wander...

                        2. re: chicaraleigh

                          I have fond memories of the Wade avenue whole foods. I remember the day it opened(pre merger) the only coop I know of in raleigh was one near cameron village. can anyone confirm that it is still there? Excellent prices, especially for students.

                          Even though they are maligned as whole paycheck WF is good if you stay away from the prepared foods especially given the quality and the service. At most ethnic market the prices are cheaper.

                          Compare foods in winston has limes ranging from 6 for $1 to 12 for $1 depending on the season. Most mass market places are 2 or 3 for one. This is just one example.

                          the local HT has small sriracha bottles for $4.99, the asian market has large bottles for $3.50 plus lots of steam dumplings, rice vinegar,rice and asian noodles that you will never find at the mass market store

                          1. re: quazi

                            There is a Compare Foods in...garner, I believe. Very cheap, and interesting products!

                            1. re: Fromageball

                              I noticed they have changed names when I drove by Wednesday - International Foods - IIRC.

                    3. FYI .......Hannafords, never "folded".......they were forced to leave the Raleigh (Southeast ) market back in 2000 when one of their major stockholders....Sobey's of Canada decided not to continue with their shareholder stake in this Maine based Co..
                      Hannaford was unfortunately ( for all who worked for this great company in the Southeast) forced to decide who / or what company was best to devour/merge with it...........it chose Delhaize of Belgium.....the parent company of Food Kitty.......I mean Food Lion....they were forced to divest their stores in the Southeast at the behest of a court order to avoid a monopoly infraction......Lowes Foods subsequently purchased the existing Hannaford stores and employees in 2000.....unfortunately the only remaining original , intact, Hannaford stores left in the Triangle are the Capital Blvd. and the remodeled Strickland Road Stores..........The closest incarnation to a Hannaford store in the Southeast will be the the Delhaize/Foodlion formatted Bloom stores.....that will begin to roll out .....depending on the economy.....they are a synergy of more Hannaford...than Food Kitty....thankfully.......from an insider, it was a very sorry day when Hannaford was forced to divest....[..except for Charlotte....where HT just counterpunched, and fought tooth and nail ( like it continues, and will always continue, to fight anybody who dares to try and go toe to toe with them)] its stake in this market.....in my opinion it was the only grocer to really compete with HT for quality, customer service, and beat HT for pricing and store brand.....Food Lion has the value/pricing , but lame customer service/conditions......Krogers that I have been in are nasty......Lowes is a pretender...HT kills them on ad's and customer service........WF and TJ's are unique unto themselves.....Walmart is value packed but disparate/out of stock/ and often unappealing.......BJ's........ho- hum.....I was very pleasantly suprised by the real quality and value of (foods) Costco, in addition to the neatness of the store,,,......i just hate paying the coin to join........Have heard many great things about employee owned Publix.....and have also heard that Wegmans is the holy Grail of Supermarkets.......

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Saddleoflamb

                        Just so you know...its really hard to read...when you use so many...

                        1. re: Saddleoflamb

                          Good summation of the quality of grocers around here. Wegmans is comparable to Whole Foods. The one in my old hometown is more of a to-go restaurant and prepared foods store than a grocer. Really. That's where they make their killing. I wouldn't call it the holy grail of markets, IMHO. Although, the fact that they have a little babysitting room so parents can shop kid free is a nice touch. It'd do us all some good to be able to shop without little monsters terrorizing everyone. LOL

                          1. re: Saddleoflamb

                            thank you for the insider perspective on the local grocery store status!