I am sure you have noticed, but grocery stores are coming into Asheville by the droves! Western North Carolina used to be “Ingles Country” with a Food Lion and Bilo here and there; is now a battlefield to bring people in the doors and make consistent customers of them. Now I am not talking about these supermarkets “duking it out” physically, or even spiritually. But when it comes to psychologically, mentally and emotionally; when it comes to location, relationship building, service, quality, marketing, presentation, health and price; it’s on! Call it recruitment if you will, but the name of the game is building long-term loyalty in the hearts and minds of every shopper that comes through those doors. One thing is for sure; with all of these Grocers up for grabs, this battle will never end.
Now there are many factors to consider when shopping for groceries in the Asheville area. Among them are:
1. Where is the store located and how far is the store from my home or job? Many of us shop within a mile or two of our residence, unless there is a discount on a similar or better item at another store that is worth traveling to. Sometimes folks travel further distances for a specific food, or desserts, that only a certain store carries. Of course where you work is also a convenience to other grocery shopping options. Plus, you get familiar with a store, you like to know where stuff is, and get in and out of it without any problem.
2. What is the parking and traffic situation like? Some folks like the hustle and bustle of traffic jousting to get to the store, then waiting 10 minutes for a parking spot. Plus, there is something in this store that I want, so it is well worth the wait. My personal novelty! Others avoid the crowds and find smaller, off the beaten path grocery stores that are not overly crowded, and have everything they need.
3. What type of atmosphere does the store have? Ok, when I walk into the grocery store, I do not necessarily need “butterflies in my stomach” .. but I should have a good feeling of sorts. How did I feel in the parking lot of this place? Was the entrance inviting? Was the store clean, vibrant, colorful? Was there any artwork and creative displays that caught your attention? What did the ceilings look like? What music was playing? Along with this, what is the “atmosphere” of their store online? A grocery store or supermarket’s website and social media can also be a determining factor. Your online footprint is a key way for people to prejudge you, your business, what you have to offer, and some perks of why we should shop there instead of elsewhere. Can you tweet them on Twitter and get a response? If I tag them with a great photo, will they like and reshare? Do they offer online and social media customer service? Your online presence should be consistent with the quality of store that you are attempting to portray.
4. What type of “work personality and attitude” does the staff have? Yes, act however you will when you are at home or in public; but when you are on your job, you will smile!!! 🙂 That was not taken out of a handbook, but employers can stress to the staff a certain overall persona and vibe that is expected in this work environment. Attitude is everything, well just about. And it begins at the top, passed down to the entry level. Even speaking certain phrases to customers with common courtesy built in like.. “Good morning” with a sincere smile on your face can brighten someone’s day and become an influence that brings them back to shop there. It wouldn’t hurt to practice on your co-workers as well. Managers stop being the store “bouncer” and build your crew up strong. Read “The Starfish and the Spider” and create a highly functional team that improves company morale and customer service; soon bleeding over to the consumers who shop there.
5. How helpful is the staff here? “How can I help you” may be five words that keep a consumer from going home frustrated that they just could not find what they were looking for. When I asked a question to the staff, were they happy to answer, or was I holding them up from doing something else? With our world turning social, so the shopping experience must. Being kind and helpful in daily living is great too.
6. What type of people shop there? Have you ever walked out of a grocery store and said “even the people shopping there are rude” or everyone in that place looked mad? Have you ever walked into a grocery store where everything and everyone was run down and dirty, including the employees? I have, and walked out. The standard must be up there, especially around food. We like to shop where the place and people are clean, folks are happy, smile, and say hello every now and then. A good supermarket will bring that out in you.
7. What types, brands, quality of food does this store carry? I like Breakstone’s whipped butter, and will make a short detour to purchase it. It is better than other butters? Yes! And when it comes to me, I grew up on it, and it has never let me down. Same with Boar’s Head meats and cheeses. The loyalty over the years to this brand is hardwired into my system. A brand’s dream! Ethic foods are becoming a huge factor as well as diversity is growing in WNC. European, Latin and Asian food stores are popping up with specialty, non-commercialized food, and hard-to-find items that easily outdo larger grocery store sections. Quality is a concern. All foods are not created equal, and having a superior brand or product at a comparable price can be the tilting factor to bring shoppers to that store for all of their shopping needs.
8. How easy is it to find what you are looking for? Isn’t it frustrating when you go into the local grocery store that you frequent and they have moved a whole section? Or sometimes that one little item that has been on aisle two for ages, is now on aisle nine; and on the top rack at that. Then, sometimes walking into a store you prefer, but at a different location, and EVERYTHING IS IN THE WRONG PLACE! Haha, sometimes we get too familiar and used to our surroundings. The team at G Social Media recently met about a International web and mobile app project that will help grocery stores and consumers around the World get organized a whole lot better.
9. How was the checkout experience? Want to make a lasting impression? Want to maybe make up for some other lacking factor in your grocery store? Make the checkout experience great! What is the last thing in the head of that consumer that just left your establishment? The choice is yours. Invest more in your cashiers and checkout crew.
10. How many jobs do they supply to our local community? When thinking about economic development, supporting a local company that gives back to a community with jobs for the folks who live here is something you should think about. All of the individuals and families are lives that are funded by these grocery stores and supermarkets providing employment.
11. How much do they give back to their local community as far as non-profits, foodbanks and other folks in need? Shopping at places like this assure that they could continue their efforts to feed the hungry and help where needed.
12. What was your overall experience at this store? Only you know the answer to this question. Go ahead, ask yourself, and really think about it. Use these questions and make a checklist.
Asheville Grocery Store and Supermarket Choices:
1. Ingles Market – Started by Bob Ingle in 1963, they are headquartered in the Asheville area, and is the prominent supermarket in the Western North Carolina community.
2. Earthfare – Taglined the healthy supermarket, they have two locations in the area, one in west Asheville at the Westgate Shopping Center, and one in south Asheville, right across the street from Ingles.
3. WalMart – When the new Super WalMart came into town, they brought grocery stores inside of them. Main locations in the area are Weaverville, Arden and East Asheville.
4. Greenlife by Whole Foods – They are boasted as the natural foods store and they are located right on the edge of Downtown and North Asheville. They are now owned by Whole Foods, which is also building a new location in East Asheville on Tunnel Rd.
5. Sam’s Club – Have a giant family, or own a business that sells these items on a smaller retail level, or want to save some money by buying in bulk? Sam’s Club is located in West Asheville, right over the Westgate bridge from Downtown. Their main competitor Costco is not in the area as of yet.
6. Harris Teeter – A division of Kroger, they have a new location on Merrimon Avenue in Downtown / North Asheville, right next to Trader Joe’s. Their last location in the area was in South Asheville, which shut down, was taken over by Lowe’s Foods, was shut down again, and that location is now turning into a Fresh Market.
7. Trader Joe’s – Owned by Aldi, they have one location in the Asheville area, and this in North Asheville, right before you cross the line to go into downtown. Harris Teeter and Greenlife are both their neighbor.
8. Katuah Market – This is a new market in the Biltmore Village area of Asheville which is supposed to evolve to something like Greenlife and Earthfare. They recently opened but have a lot of work to do, this is just the beginning. Grand Opening is supposed to be in February 2014.
9. Hopey & Co. – This is a discount market with two stores located in Downtown Asheville and one in the Biltmore Village area on Sweeten Creek Rd. These stores were previously Amazing Savings.
10. Publix – Coming soon to South Asheville on Hendersonville Road, just a hop, skip and a jump away from Ingles and Earthfare.
11. Fresh Market – They have a store on Merrimon Ave in North Asheville, right across from Ingles, and they are also building one at the old Harris Teeter location on Hendersonville Rd in South Asheville. Years ago, they had another location in South Asheville where Southeastern Sports Medicine now is, but had shut down.
12. Food Lion – There are not many locations left in the Asheville area, but we know of one on Smoky Park Highway in Candler NC. They also built the “Food Lion Skatepark” in downtown Asheville.
13. BiLo – They have locations in East Asheville, next to Babies R Us, and also in Enka NC. Two of their other locations in South and West Asheville were taken over by Rush Fitness and are now gyms.
14. GO Grocery Outlet – We had two in the area, but now the main one is on Leicester Highway in West Asheville, right near the Hot Spot gas station.
15. SAV-MOR – Owned by Ingles and used mostly to sell discount, discontinued and overstock items. They also provide other services such as Western Union, money orders etc.
16. ALDI – Comparable to Trader’s Joe (and owned by the same holding company) when it comes to their business, quality and offerings; but with a less “hip” plan of presentation, less put into atmosphere, more of the “no frills” mentality. Individual items as well as light bulk is available here. They have two locations, one in East Asheville across from WalMart, and one in West Asheville next to Sonic. They are also building a spot in Weaverville, next to Zaxby’s.
17. West Village Market – They were originally called the Grove Corner Market and based in the Grove Arcade, Downtown Asheville, where the Battery Park Book Exchange now is. They have since relocated to West Asheville on Haywood Road.
18. Target – Their location in East Asheville has a small grocery shopping section with select foods.
19. Family Dollar – They have three locations in the area, one in East Asheville, and two in West Asheville; offering discounted groceries.
20. Big Lots – They have one location in East Asheville on Tunnel Road in the Innsbrook Mall Shopping Center and offer discounted groceries.
21. French Broad Food Co-op – Last but not least, this is the main place to get groceries if you are in downtown Asheville. Lots of natural and organic foods, plus they host a farmer’s market from April to November on Wednesdays. They are conveniently located across the street from the Orange Peel and Wicked Weed Brewing.
This article is by the G Social Media team who develops custom brands, websites, mobile apps, content, media, marketing strategies and campaigns for clients worldwide.