Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A New Grocery Store for the Old Dominion - Publix Announces a Push into Virginia

This is just a picture of a fairly typical newer Publix, this one happening to be an early 2015 opened store.
     Thanks to everyone who e-mailed in or commented over on the Wegmans Entering North Carolina post about this news. Publix has just announced yet another state they want to expand into - Virginia.

     Virginia will be the 7th state for Publix to be opening stores in. So far, Publix has announced the locations of two Virginia stores - a store in Bristol, VA (close to the VA/TN state line), and a store in Glen Allen, a northern suburb of Richmond. Publix has been creeping into the northern cities of Eastern Tennessee and North Carolina over the last few years, so it makes sense that Virginia has been on the radar. According to Publix, they've been scouting out potential sites for stores in Virginia for the last two years, beginning right around the time the first of the North Carolina stores began to open in early 2014. I'm surprised Publix has only announced two new stores for Virginia as a part of their entrance announcement. When Publix entered North Carolina, they announced about 5 or 6 stores as a part of their entrance into that state. It's also interesting that they decided to jump all the way up to Richmond initially, and didn't stick to only Southern Virginia at first (Bristol, Roanoke, Danville, Hampton Roads). Wegmans is opening their first new stores in Richmond later this year, so Publix probably wanted to get into Richmond soon before Wegmans became too established. The Bristol store is expected to open in late 2017, and the Glen Allen store is planned to open in early 2018.

     Virginia won't be the end of Publix's expansions. I don't know if they would want to go any farther north from Virginia and possibly into Maryland, but that would probably be a long time off if it were to occur. Publix's next expansions will probably bring them into into areas further west and northwest of their current store base. Publix is showing no signs of stopping, and I'm sure there will be more announcements of expansions coming from them in the coming months and years.

     If you want to read more about Publix's current plans for entering Virginia, you can read their official press release here, and Supermarket News also has a good article, which you can read here.

Until the next time,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger


  1. In North Carolina, the first store announcements were for Asheville, Charlotte (Multiple stores), Cary, and Winston-Salem.

    It's a pretty bold move, because with the exception of Cary, Publix essentially placed stores in some of the other traditional stores' HQ towns (Ingles- Black Mountain/Asheville, Lowe's Foods- Winston-Salem, Harris Teeter- Matthews/Charlotte).Only town they skipped is Salisbury, which is Food Lion's HQ.

    Virginia doesn't have as many supermarket chains HQ'd there as NC (Only Food City, out of Abingdon, and the Farm Fresh Division of SuperValu in Virginia Beach remain, Ukrops got sold in '09)

    They could try in Danville, which generally lacks mid-market competition (Kroger tried and failed, Winn-Dixie went out with the Bankruptcy, and Harris Teeter had a really dated store there until they closed it in 2009.)

    Between Danville and Emporia, there really isn't much there.

    Hampton Roads is iffy, but not really any more iffy than Richmond. I could see them announcing a store in Norfolk/VA Beach in their next round of openings along with Roanoke.Food Lion is pretty big in the Hampton Roads market.

    If Publix announces a store in Charlottesville, it will make the second city where they compete in a market with Wegmans & stores from two overlapping Kroger divisions.

    Roanoke would land them in the backyard of Kroger's Mid-Atlantic division, which is generally well established there. Ukrops tried and failed miserably here. Harris Teeter left the market due to the infamous store swap with Kroger; Publix could somewhat fill a void here.I could be wrong, but it looks like Food City doesn't have a presence in Roanoke, Danville, or Martinsville.

    Of all the supermarket competition in Virginia, Martin's and Farm Fresh seem to be the chain that could lose the most customers with Kroger/HT, Food Lion, Ingles, and Food City being moderately affected at most.

    I don't think Lowe's foods will close their lone store in Stuart, Va (unless something happens to the whole chain) but it'll be kinda foolish if they're planning to expand in VA and "follow" any other chain the way they're doing in Greenville, SC

    1. I was thinking Publix would start with the larger towns in Virginia along the I-81 and US 29 corridors south of Roanoke before jumping all the way up to Richmond. It seems like Publix is taking a slower approach to entering Virginia than they did with North Carolina, but that could also be because they don't have the distribution power to effectively serve a large number of stores in that area yet, especially if deliveries have to be trucked in all the way from Atlanta. That's probably the reason why Publix is moving into Eastern North Carolina slower than they are with the Central and Western parts of the state.

      I've read things online about how people are still pretty bitter about the Ukrops family selling out, and how Ahold/Martin's stores don't even compare to what Ukrops offered. Food City does a lot of their business in smaller sized towns that Publix probably wouldn't be interested in, so they probably wouldn't be effected much by Publix opening new stores. Most of Food City's Virginia stores are located out in the far western towns of Virginia, and not so much in the central part of the state that Publix would be more interested in. I could see a Hampton Roads entrance once Publix feels comfortable enough to begin building more stores in Eastern North Carolina, and they could work their way in that way.

      I don't think Publix is too concerned with Food Lion's presence. Their stores are two pretty different concepts, and they'd rather worry about competing with Harris Teeter/Kroger, Wegmans, and Martin's since those stores tend to lean more upscale, or are trying to offer more upscale concepts, something Food Lion really shows no interest in doing. I'm sure Publix will announce a few more Virginia stores in the next few months, but I don't think a large Virginia presence will occur until they have a new distribution center built farther north of Atlanta.

    2. Lowe's Foods is taking a giant risk expanding into the Greenville and Charleston, South Carolina, markets after failing in the Charlotte, North Carolina, market.

    3. I will agree Publix is not concerned about Food Lion. Publix's stores will easily obliterate Food Lion's stores.

      Food Lion has had opportunities to get better. Its constants have been a revolving door of executive leadership, failed pricing and marketing initiatives, stores closed, and market exits. Ahold would have a lot of work to turn Food Lion around when its acquisition of Delhaize is complete.

  2. Stores - Charlotte Division: Publix will be busy securing additional store sites with stores likely opening in 2017 and 2018.

    Distribution: There is not a distribution center located in the Charlotte Division yet. Publix's distribution centers usually have high velocity, dairy/boxed meat, produce, and frozen food warehouses. I think a distribution center may be on the way, which is why many stores will begin opening in 2017.


    Could this be where Publix steps in?

    1. And just about all of those Martin's locations are former Ukrops stores, which are probably in very good shape and would be very desirable to Publix. Publix has to be scouting more Richmond locations anyway, and this could be a perfect opportunity for them to acquire a few stores, like what they did buying the few BI-LO stores around Charlotte when they first entered that area two years ago. This is a perfect opportunity for Publix, even if they hold off opening any potential acquired stores until late 2017 or early 2018.

    2. The funny thing about Richmond is that if Publix does get these stores, it'll expand pretty much the same way Kroger did in Richmond.

      In the late '90s, Hannaford agreed to merge with Food Lion's parent company. As a result of the merger, Hannaford had to divest its stores in Virginia and North Carolina. Kroger ended up with most of the Virginia stores while Lowe's Foods ended up with old Hannaford stores in the Research Triangle, and Wilmington. I also see Publix subdividing a store or two since their current prototypes only run to 60K (A Martin's store in Midlothian near the Wegman's was at least 70 or 80K ft²)

    3. When Publix took over some of the former Albertsons stores in Florida back in 2008, some of the stores they acquired were near 70,000 square feet. Back then, they just took over all of that space, leading to some abnormally spacious stores, especially in the areas around the service departments where there were large open areas with nothing in them. Publix eventually downsized a few of those through tear down and rebuilds, but many still remain. Most of that was probably due to Publix's desire to open those stores as fast as possible, something Publix wouldn't likely face if their plans don't call for opening in Richmond until 2018. If they acquire any larger stores by the end of this year, they'll have enough time to make their modifications and not have to run into that issue (a full scale remodel for Publix typically takes 6-9 months, but most of those old Albertsons were reopened in a few weeks).

      That would be an interesting parallel between Kroger and Publix in Richmond. Publix can really use any acquisitions from this to their advantage for a faster Richmond expansion, and they can potentially block Kroger from adding more stores if they're also interested.

    4. Publix could take some valuable, high traffic spots from Kroger, but I don't see them completely blocking Kroger from adding stores at the moment. Kroger Mid-Atlantic seems pretty focused on Richmond right now (they're actually replacing stores built in the 2000s with Marketplaces right now).I don't believe that Kroger would get the Martin's stores because of the close proximity, but anything can happen. I did see Publix do some gut jobs to existing stores (mainly Lowe's foods) so I do imagine them taking their time with these stores if acquired.